More Than a Month
February 06, 2012
In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson set out with an idea to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history; he started the very first Negro History Week that year. What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied-or even documented-when this tradition originated. Although blacks had been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it wasn't until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books. Fifty years later, the United States and Canada officially dedicated the month of February to African-American or Black History and have been observing it ever since. "Black history is American history," says Morgan Freeman. What an incredibly profound and simple statement.
It is common to think of African-American History Month as a time to reflect on both the struggles and the successes of a race that has been treated with prejudice throughout our country’s history. It is a time when we show our gratitude for those who fought for civil rights and our appreciation for all the intelligent, talented, courageous African Americans who broke through boundaries and made the world a greater place to live in every day.
We revisit the achievements of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We read biographies of Colin Powell and Barack Obama. We fill our iPods with the music of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Jimi Hendrix. We go to the movie theatre to watch Cuba Gooding Jr., Nate Parker, Terrence Howard, and David Oyelowo bring to life the story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. We use books, databases, websites, and television broadcasts for research to broaden our knowledge of the many African-Americans who have made an impact on us.
It’s a special time of celebration and recognition, to be sure, but why stop there? In a country made up of so many different races and cultures and nationalities and religions and backgrounds and opinions and experiences and languages and memories and hopes and dreams and everything else that makes each of us who we are, our histories are shared and woven tightly together.
Black history is American history. It’s more than just a month. Think about it.