Friday, February 1, 2019

Black History Month - ABC's Day 1

I don't ever remember celebrating black history month when I was in school. 

I don't ever remember anybody even mentioning it.

I thought it was a pretty new thing, and that was why I hadn't heard of it when I was a kid.

Maybe the schools I attended did celebrate it and it just made no impression on me.

I could not recall ever hearing about this until I was older, and I don't even remember how much older.

When did we start celebrating this?
Why did we start celebrating this?
Who started celebrating this?
How did we even get to a Black History Month?

Here is what I learned.

Carter G Woodson

He was born in 1875, got a BA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Harvard in history.

He was quite annoyed as a historian, that black folks were missing from American History. The textbooks of the day, as well as all of the scholarly literature, completely erased African Americans from the picture. One would never know that black folks had contributed anything to the American story. 

(I remember only two: George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. No black women were mentioned, and no other politicians, inventors or anything.) 

Dr. Woodson decided to change that. 

In 1915 he and some of his friends established The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

in 1916 the association produced The Journal of Negro History which is still in publication and is now called The Journal of African American History.


After publishing the journal for ten years, Dr. Woodson fought for Negro History Week to be held in February. The reason being that Lincoln's birthday was the 12th of February and Fredrick Douglass is accepted to have been born on the 14th of February. 

The whole idea for this week was to encourage Americans to learn something about the contributions of African Americans to the history of our country. Mayors across the country started issuing yearly proclamations about it.

In 1950, Dr. Woodson passed away, but the seeds he'd planted lived beyond him.

In the late1960's during the height of civil disobedience when African Americans were fighting for basic civil rights, some college campuses across the country expanded the idea of Negro History Week to the entire month of February.

Seoul Korea
In 1976, I was in Seoul Korea. Apparently, that was the first year African American History Month was recognized nationally by President Gerald Ford.

President Ford called on the country to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

You might ask...

Do we still need this?
Why is it so important?
Isn't a month a bit excessive?
Doesn't everybody already know that black folks must have done something worthwhile in history?

Well, there is this guy in government who keeps getting elected despite saying things like this...

Steve King in the House of Representatives in 2016 to illustrate his point that only white people have made significant contributions to civilization said this:

“This whole business does get a little tired. I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

The House just called him to the carpet for saying he was uncertain when the term White Nationalist became a bad thing. Yes, he is representing Iowa. The folks in his district have been sending him to Washington for over a decade.

He is not alone in this belief that there has been no significant contribution in our society by POC.

Black History Month is not about forgiveness or an excuse not to teach the actual history of what it has meant to be black in America.

Black history is about taking a moment to remember that our country's history is dynamic and everybody who had ancestors here helped build it even if our textbooks keep forgetting to tell the whole story somehow.

This year I will post once a day about someone who has brought light to the darkness.

- The ABC's of Black History Month.

Day 1 - The ABC's of Black History Month

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