January 30, 2014
Do we need Black History Month?
In the last two days, we have been enjoying the Countdown to Black History Month. On Tuesday, we looked at what Black History month is and what people can do to recognize and celebrate it. I hope that you are thinking of more ways to celebrate this great month. Remember, yes, history is very important but you can also commemorate the month through cultural activities (like music, art, or food) or political activities through attending a rally. One great way to celebrate Black History Month is to celebrate the Black family. Spending time together as a family is a wonderful way to honor the month.
Yesterday (Wednesday), we discussed who founded it. We saw that Dr. Carter G. Woodson originally started it as Negro History Week in the second week of February. It did not become a full month celebration until the mid-1970s. Dr. Woodson was an interesting and respected historian and scholar who was unhappy with how Black history was being taught and ignored in schools. His landmark book, The Mis-education of the Negro, should be required reading in every African American home. (It’s also a great read for Black History Month!)
Today, we will discuss why Black History Month is important.
I think that this point is probably obvious to anyone who has read the first two Countdown days to Black History Month. (If you haven’t read the previous two days, I strongly encourage you to do so.) Still, it is an important discussion to hold because it might not be obvious to many people, including African Americans.
Let’s begin this discussion with a quote by Dr. Carter G. Woodson:
If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.
I think that this is a great quote from which to start the discussion. Dr. Woodson talks about the vulnerability of a people who do not know their history. And it could make African Americans appear to lack value, tradition, and humanity.
Dr. Woodson did not want African Americans to believe that our history consisted solely of slavery. Certainly, slavery was a part of African American history, but there is so much more. And this is why Black History Month is important and necessary.
In recent years, Black history is appearing more on the curriculum and that is laudable. However, it is only a broad view of African American history and only a scant view of the contributions made by African Americans.
The distinguished historian, Dr. David McCullough, wrote:
For a free, self-governing people, something more than a vague familiarity of history is essential to hold on to, and sustain, our freedom.
Dr. McCullough’s statement is a great “mantra” for African Americans and the study of African American history. And Black History Month is the right time to pierce the superficial veil of history and get to its heart and spirit.
In short, we need Black History Month to remind us of the great people before us, on whose backs we climb, whose vision we follow, and whose work, toil, and suffering have changed this country and the world.
- Do you know who Benjamin Banneker is?
- Do you know which courageous Black woman fought against lynching?
- Have you ever heard the Negro National Anthem?
These are some questions to consider during Black History Month. And there are so many others!
Black History Month is important because it allows all people to pause and remember the important contributions of African Americans–and to celebrate the African American experience throughout the world.
Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration that comes from the teaching of biography and history. ~ Dr. Carter G. Woodson