Black history in America is often reduced to a handful of memorable moments and events. In Black history, this includes the Underground Railroad, the famous “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Selma to Montgomery March.
But these are only a few events to remember.
Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, is credited with the creation of Negro History Week in 1926, which has blossomed into Black History Month as we know it today. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week into a full month.
Ford said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
In high school, we were required to read from authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Harper Lee, but how often were we required to read from authors like James Baldwin, Roxane Gay, or Octavia Butler? Black history should be just as much a part of our history as the rest of it.
It is extremely important that we take the time to learn about Black history. Black history is American history, and when those stories go untold, we are missing out on a critical part of our past.
Without a complete understanding of our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Today, we are still caught up in debates about the Confederate flag while we continue to see rises in white supremacist groups. Today, we still find ourselves having to demand racial equality for those around us.
We can’t actively engage in these discussions without first fully understanding of our history.
We politely and eagerly celebrate the contributions made by African Americans, but many people still can’t face up to what Woodson called the “whole truth” of U.S. history.
For example, people will still claim that Confederate monuments have everything to do with southern “heritage” and nothing to do with white supremacy.
Black History Month is not a time to parade around about how far our society has come, nor is it a month-long tirade blaming white people for all of the bad things that happened to their ancestors.
Black History Month is so much more than that. It’s a reminder of how far we have come, as well as how far our nation has left to go. But although there has been immense progress, we are far from completely understanding all there is to understand.
While there are people who believe that it is time to do away with Black History Month, its importance is still immeasurable.
Black History Month is for all of us to educate ourselves. To dismiss it is to dismiss a crucial part of history. In order to complete the American narrative, we must make sure we include the history of native people, black people, and other minority people, whose stories, more often than not, remain untold.