Transforming black history month
African-American History Month should focus primarily on American history and culture, not on race
“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.”
These are words from Carter G. Woodson, one of the first African-American scholars to study African-American history. He also created National Negro Week in 1926.
If a professor in a class were to ask students who W.E.B. Dubois or Dr. Mae Jemison were, many would not know he was an African-American sociologist or she was the first female African-American astronaut to travel in space.
Since 1976, every February, the United States has recognized African American History Month. While we celebrate the history of African-American culture, there are questions as to why we place emphasis on this heritage. The same can be said about Women’s History Month or National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Why do we celebrate a gender or a culture? Simply, it is to bring awareness to the pioneers who help bring equality to our nation.
While it is good that we place emphasis on races, genders and cultures, they should be a part of American history too.
America has come a long way from oppression of race since the Civil War. There was a time where there were colored and white bathrooms, water fountains and restaurants. My parents told me stories of how they went to integrated schools and the trials and abuse they faced everyday when growing up in Baltimore, Md. in the 1960s and ’70s. Those problems they faced are what many African-Americans faced during that time. These are issues that are forgotten to our generation today.
Maybe the American culture is embarrassed about parts of its past and are trying to hide the negatives and the faults. Or maybe our generation separates themselves from the cruelty of our history, choosing to erase the cultural and racial lines that once separated us.
Many may say that it is racist to limit a certain type of history to a month. In 2005, Morgan Freeman said on “60 Minutes,” “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? … I don’t want black history month. Black history is American history.”
Instead of studying just the wars and politics that happened in American history, we should also learn about those figures that sacrificed so that we may have equality today. And I do not mean just Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks.
No matter what ethnicity we are, being an American is a culture not a race. Every part of our history as a culture should be studied and not erased.
Although we have made a step in the right direction as a nation for giving a month of recognition, we still have a long way to go to give full equality.