“I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.”
President Gerald Ford told the American people the month of February would be dedicated to honoring “the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Initially, in 1926, the group known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History dedicated a week to black history, according to history.com. That week was chosen as it coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and black rights activist and slave abolitionist Fredrick Douglas. But 50 years later, President Ford elected seven days out of 365 was insufficient.
And thus, Feb. 10, 1976, Black History Month was enacted.
I appreciate Black History Month. It is not a month I gloat about as though I am better than anyone. I do not treat Feb. 1 as I would my birthday. It is a time of reverence and respect for those who fought for civil freedoms and liberties.
However, there are some who are not too quick to applaud Ford’s decision. Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman has voiced his opinion on dedicating a month to black history, and quite frankly, it is not a favorable one.
In a 2005 60 Minutes interview, the actor deemed the very premise of Black History Month ridiculous, stating he did not want it and black history is American history.
Freeman is correct about one thing. Black history is American history. However, that point alone is reason enough to celebrate it.
The time we began to overcome the prejudice that plagued our country is something that should be celebrated. Black History Month is the time we as a nation reflect on those who suffered and endured extreme hatred for no reason other than skin color. But it is also the time we understand that none of it was done in vain.
HAYWOOD is the editor-in-chief.