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No disrespect intended, but enough already with Black History Month! Every day it’s something else. Why can’t we just look at history without separating it out by race? Besides, isn’t having a special month for Black history sort of racist in itself? Wouldn’t you be offended by a White history month? Please explain why we need to keep doing this.
-All History Matters
I give you props for the courage to write what other folks might be thinking. But where to start? Let’s begin here: On Mother’s Day, there’s always a child who says, ‘Why don’t we celebrate Children’s Day?” The answer is usually, “Because every day is children’s day.” The same principle applies here: for centuries, every day was White History Day.
Not only was the history of Black people not told, their very existence was often erased. As James Baldwin reflected in 1964, “I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history because it seemed that that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.” Baldwin wasn’t the first or the last to note this. Back in 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson along with Jesse Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which was the foundation for what is now Black History Month.
And it’s been an uphill battle ever since.
In the mid-1960s, the most popular textbook for eight-grade U.S. history classes mentioned only twoBlack people in the entire century of history that had transpired after the Civil War. And it’s not just the lack of recognition of achievement. When Black people are depicted, many history books twist and distort the reality of their lives.
Still? Yup. In 2018, eighth graders in San Antonio, Texas, were asked to list the positive and negative aspects of slavery. That school’s history textbook, “Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States”, argued that not all slaveowners were cruel: “A few [slaves] never felt the lash and “many may not have been too unhappy with their lot, for they knew no other.” Other state-approved history books depicted slavery as a side issue, with state’s rights being main cause of the Civil War. This is clearly ahistorical, or, in other words, a lie.
Yes, AHM, Black History month is still needed. Not only is it an opportunity to spotlight Black achievement, it gives us a way to accurately tell stories of our country’s racist past, which we have to reckon with. I’ll close by turning it over to Lonnie Bunch, the Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture:
“Despite the profound change in race relations that has occurred in our lives, Carter G. Woodson’s vision for black history as a means of transformation and change is still quite relevant and quite useful …. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the Black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but also, how far there is to go.”
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