Black History: Just a Month?

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It is that time of year again. Valentine’s Day? President’s Day? No. Well, yes. Those days are observed this month, but I am speaking about the month itself. Black History Month. There are many views on the celebration of Black history during this time. Inevitably, I hear a lot of criticism over this designated timeframe. Statements such as, “There isn’t a White History Month” or “Why is the history regulated to one month” are commonplace during this time. Some people view the month’s theme itself as racist while others see the objection as racist.

The topic is an uneasy one to approach. Celebrities, such as Morgan Freeman, have garnered a lot of criticism for speaking out against the event. He said, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.” It’s hard to say he is wrong. It is his opinion after all. Well, his feelings are his opinion. Black history being a part of history is fact.

I remember the concept of Black History Month as a child being one of fascination. I enjoyed the history. Personally, I think Black history should be presented chronologically with any other history, but I don’t create the classes. Considering the introduction of the month’s theme was created before my time, maybe I do not understand.

Originally known as Negro History Week, the theme was celebrated to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas, the 12th and 14th respectively. It was conceived to teach celebrated Black history in the classrooms. The only history up to that point (1926) surrounded the introduction of slavery in America and the role it played in the Civil War.

During America’s Bicentennial (1976), President Ford urged people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Black History Month was established this year in February because Negro History Week was already created in that month.

While on campus, I have received a well-rounded education I believe. I have studied works of literature written by Black Americans and women. I think LCU breaks traditional molds in this regard. Currently, I am enrolled in an African-American Literature course, taught by Professor Shenai Alonge. I think what helps this course is the centralized material presented. While I have read poems, plays, and novels by Black American authors on campus before, the course is designed to examine issues facing the writers when the works were written.

Again, I have to agree with Mr. Freeman. Black history is American history. It should be important year round. I do however enjoy the elevated status of Black history and literature during the month. To me, it is a placeholder of sorts. Recognized by the U.S. Government, many school policies across the country mandate this topic SHALL be taught. If educators feel they can avoid the issue, an official event is in place to stop them. For many children, it is the only time they will read about Black history, and that is unfortunate, but for now, the themed month meets its intentioned purpose, celebration.

For those who wonder about White History Month, I can only inform you of your ignorance. Perhaps you take the history and literature which surrounds you for granted because, in a lot of cases, White History Month(s) take place every other month of the year, March-January, which is why Black History Month and designated months for the history of many other cultures exist. If this fact is lost on you, I offer the following themed months for your future celebrations:
Irish-American Heritage Month – March
Jewish American Heritage Month – May
National Hispanic Heritage Month – September 15th to October 15th
Native American Indian Heritage Month – November

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