February marks the beginning of Black History Month. It is an event celebrated annually in the U.S. and founded in 1926 by an African-American historian, Carter G. Woodson. He initially founded it as Negro History Week in order to honor two influential men – Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. It also was a marker for several historical events that happened in the month of February that impacted the lives of African-Americans such as the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States giving them the right to vote. By 1976, as the U.S. reached its bicentennial, it was expanded to a month.
With the expansion of this celebration into a month, came controversy. Many individuals debate about the usefulness of it. They fear Black History Month only highlights the color lines already dividing American society. Actor Morgan Freeman stated on a 60 Minutes episode, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” The only problem with his statement is that African Americans were rarely mentioned in history until the founding of Black History Month.
Traditionally, American history books only mentioned one prominent African-American in their pages – George Washington Carver. The remaining African-Americans were nameless slaves and servants. Carter Woodson wanted to change the way the history books portrayed people like him with the hopes of full integration. Once the integration was complete, Woodson believed the need for Black History Month would go away. So, the question for those in favor of continuing this celebration today is ‘have African Americans fully integrated?’
Depending on who you ask, you will get a different answer as to how far African-Americans have permeated mainstream society. What can be seen is a long history of people who have struggled to obtain the same rights and privileges as their Caucasian counter-parts. What can also be seen is the hate that still exists despite so many societal changes. For this reason, Black History Month is vital.
The meaning of Black History Month has far exceeded the hopes of its founder. It not only highlights the impact of African-Americans on society. It also helps people remember the danger of racial and socio-economic oppression which effect more than just Blacks. This month helps everyone see the importance of human rights for all people and is the reason why it should always be celebrated. So the main question U.S. citizens should be asking themselves come February is ‘how am I going to celebrate Black History Month.’
What an individual decides to do to celebrate Black History Month is personal. It’s just important that everyone finds a way to honor it in a manner that is meaningful to them. For some, it may mean going to a parade or church event. For others, it could be an open discussion with their child about the importance of equality for everyone. It can even be a moment of silence reflecting on the world and how you impact it. Either way, celebrating this month is important to everyone. So, don’t forget to celebrate Black History Month.
Black History Trivia
* The United Kingdom celebrates Black History Month in the month of October.
* The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded on February 23, 1868 by W.E.B. DuBois.
* Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first Black U.S. Senator, took his oath of offices on February 3, 1870.
* Malcolm X, a leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was shot to death on February 21, 1965.
* On February 3, 1870, Blacks were given the right to vote through the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
* On February 1, 1960 in Greensboro NC, college students would do a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter that would turn into a civil rights milestone.