DOES BLACK HISTORY MONTH STILL HAVE RELEVANCE?

Black History Month

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Black-History Month is a remembrance of important people and events in black history. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in the month of February, while in the UK it is held in the month of October.

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 History

Statue of Woodson in Huntington, West Virginia

Statue of Woodson in Huntington, West Virginia

Black History Month was established in 1976 by The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. The month-long celebration was an expansion of Negro History Week, which was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, director of what was then known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson selected the week in February that embraced the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The celebration may have had its origins in the separate efforts of Mary Church Terrell and the African American collegiate fraternity Omega Phi Psi. The former had begun the practice of honoring Frederick Douglass on February 14th, the date he used to mark his birth. The Omegas established a “Negro Achievement Week” in 1924. Woodson was friends with Mary Church Terrell and worked with her and the National Council of Colored Women to preserve Douglass’ home and personal papers. Woodson was also a member of Omega Psi Phi. While Terrell’s celebration of Douglass was a local event and the Omega Achievement Week was part of their community outreach, Woodson broadened the scope of the celebration in three significant ways. First, he conceived of the event as a national celebration, sending out a circular to groups across the United States. Secondly, he sought to appeal to both whites and blacks and to improve race relations. For this reason, he chose President Lincoln’s birthday as well as Douglass’. Finally, Woodson viewed Negro History Week as an extension of ASNLH’s effort to demonstrate to the world that Africans and peoples of African descent had contributed to the advance of history. Each year, ASNLH would select a national theme and provide scholarly and popular materials to focus the nation’s “study” of Negro history. As such, Negro History Week was conceived as a means of undermining the foundation of the idea of black inferiority through popular information grounded in scholarship. The theme, chosen by the founders of Black History Month, for 2007 is “From Slavery to Freedom, Africans in the Americas.”

The Negro History Week Movement took hold immediately. At first it was celebrated almost exclusively by African Americans, taking place outside of the view of the wider society. Increasingly, however, mayors and governors, especially in the North, began endorsing Negro History Week and promoting interracial harmony. By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a well-established cultural institution. Indeed, it was so established that Woodson had begun to criticize groups for shallow and often inaccurate presentations that did not advance the public’s knowledge of Negro life and history.

With the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s, many in the African American community began to complain about the insufficiency of a week-long celebration. In 1976, the ASNLH, having changed its name to The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, responded to the popular call, citing the 50th annual celebration and America’s bicentennial. For more on the association visit ASALH.org.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879.

 Purpose

History books had barely begun covering black history when the tradition of Black History Month was started. At that point, most representation of blacks in history books was only in reference to the low social position they held, with the exception of George Washington Carver. Black History Month can also be referred to as African-American History Month, or African Heritage Month. One of the few U.S. history works at that time told from an African American perspective was W.E.B. DuBois’ 1935 work “Black Reconstruction.”

In the United Kingdom (UK), Black History Month is celebrated in the month of October. The official guide to Black History Month in the UK[] is published by Sugar Media, Ltd., who produce 100,000 copies nationwide.

Part of the aim of Black History Month is to expose the harms of racial prejudice and to cultivate black self-esteem following centuries of socio-economic oppression . It is also an opportunity to recognize significant contributions to society made by people with African heritage.

 Debate

NoI preacher in 1998, in England.

NoI preacher in 1998, in England.

Black History Month sparks an annual debate about the continued usefulness of a designated month dedicated to the history of one skin colour. Critical op-ed pieces have appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer  and USA Today .

Some African American radical/nationalist groups, including the Nation of Islam, have criticized Black History Month. Some critics contend Black History Month is irrelevant because it has degenerated into a shallow ritual.

Woodson, creator of Negro History Month, hoped that the week would eventually be eliminated, when African-American history would be fully integrated with American history.”

So, the question remains. Is Black History Month still relevant? Should we still keep it?

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 Another aspect of Black History Month is the continued disrespect, and unacknowledgement  shown towards the many numerous contributions that black women have made for the progress of black people.

Quick!

Without naming either Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman, name FOUR black women who made an impact on black people’s lives in our struggle for freedom.

Yeah, I thought so.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “DOES BLACK HISTORY MONTH STILL HAVE RELEVANCE?

  1. stephaniegirl

    Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Joycelyn Elders, Barbara Jordan, Angela Davis, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, Anita Hill, Mary Bethune are just a few Black women I know right off the top of my head.

    Stephanie B.

  2. Ann

    Hooray, Stephanie!

    I ended my comment with a challenge:

    “Yeah, I thought so.”

    There are so many black women who have contributed to black history, and their stories should not remain buried under the debris of unacknowledgement.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Dorothy Height, Donna Brazille, Farai Chideya, Maya Angelou

    But you’re absolutely right.

  4. Ann

    Hello, ABW.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. cynthiagee

    Phillis Wheatley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, the Delany sisters…. whoops, that’s five.

  6. Ann

    Thanks for stopping by, cynthiagee.

    Five is great.

    The more the better!

  7. Shoppy

    Thanks for sharing this information. Really is packed with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

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