Today, February 1, 2021, is Black History Month. Before there was Black History Month, there was Black History Week. Actually, then it was called “Negro History Week.”
In 1926 (the year my father was born), historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” The second week was chosen, symbolically, in that it was the same week of the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Black History Month has its origins with Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970. Six years later, during America’s Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history.” Indeed, Mr. President, there is no American history without Black American history!
The counterpoint to the “too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americas” is the writing of history that celebrates Christopher Columbus and the Confederacy.
It is not revisionist history to include history intentionally left out or slanted to make villians out to be heroes. In fact, in what country in the annals of history have rebels who started a Civil War and lost it are continuously honored with statues and memorials for more than 150 years after their defeat? Only in America!
I have read De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and The Federalist Papers as well as “American history” that has left out the accomplishments of Black Americans. But I have also read W.E.B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson, exemplary, exacting Black scholars. On the other hand, how many white students of American history have been introduced to the works of Black scholars?
If white poeple are looking for a starting point to begin “racial reconciliation,” then reading the works of Black scholars like W.E.B. DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, J.A. Rogers, Chancellor Williams, and Lerone Bennett Jr. would be a good place to begin. Reading them would begin to change the mythical American narrative.
In his seminal book, Carter G. Woodson wrote about The Miseducation of the Negro. Granted, many “Negroes” have been and continue to be miseducated, because they have been “educated” by white “educators” or Eurocentric Black “educators.” Nonetheless, one could make a greater argument that generally speaking white Americans are even more “miseducated” than Black folks.
A toast to inclusive as well as accurate history!
Happy Black History Month!
Read my award-winning epic poem, based on Black History.