Each year since 1926, February has marked celebrating black history, originally founded by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History week. February was chosen as it was the months of the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. And each year, the issue is raised by many people as to why do we need a special month to commemorate black history. Ditto for Hispanic History month, and Women’s History month which follows in March. I struggle with the fact that black history month is necessary in our society.
Black History month was never intended to go on forever. Carter G. Woodson, the original founder of Black, did not intend for it to go on forever. Instead, he hoped that one day, we would not need a Black History Month or any other specific month based on race, gender or nationality. That day has not come yet. So once again, we must wash, rinse and repeat Black History Month. Carter Woodson once said on Black History Month:
“We should emphasize not Negro history but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice.”
Woodson made this comment in 1926. And if we emphasized and practiced what Dr. Woodson said, we would be studying black history fully incorporated into American history, every day of the year in lieu of a month long celebration in February.
Continuing Black History month is first necessary in our country until we do a better job of incorporating black history into American history. Recently the movie, 12 Years a Slave, and through efforts of Montel Williams, will be available as a teaching tool in high schools throughout the country. That is an effort towards a good start. But there must be more of an emphasis on black history, past and present to understand our present and future. As an African American, I am continually surprised at the lack of knowledge of African American history among Americans. Every year I learn new facts about black history—all year long.
And we will know it’s time to forego black history month when racist viewpoints no longer exist. When comments such as slavery was not that bad, that nothing was wrong with the poll tax which prevented Blacks from voting in the Jim Crow south, when hatred expressed towards blacks no longer exist, we will be able to eliminate Black History month from February’s calendar. Until then, we need to start by working towards eliminating laws that discriminate against African Americans such as Stand Your Ground Laws, Stop and Frisk laws and felony voter disenfranchisement laws, to name a few.
Black History Month bears repeating over and over again until those racist remarks and persons spewing racism are eradicated in our society. When we eradicate ignorance of black history and the racial hatred spewed by some who still see African Americans as inferior to whites, we will be able to eliminate black history month. Sadly, we are nowhere close to its elimination.
And so in 2014, as we close out the month of February, we must again commemorate Black History Month as we have yet to rid our society of the need for a specific month recognizing the achievements and sacrifices of African Americans in American history. When we get to the point of not needing Black History Month, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. we shall have overcome and reached the mountain top. Until then, we need to wash, rinse and repeat Black History Month until we get it right.