Why Is Black History Segregated?
3 months ago
Does a dedicated month stifle integration of our contributions in all aspects of U.S. society?
But the focus during February is typically on the same African Americans--Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass--as if African American history is limited to the accomplishments of these notable few.
“Textbooks have done a better job of including African Americans into U.S. history texts, but this is usually confined to the most famous leaders who have been validated by the U.S. historians and the political establishment. Some leaders are not mentioned because they are considered too radical or controversial,” says V.P. Franklin, a history professor and editor of The Journal of African American History at University of California, Riverside. “Black History Month provides the opportunity to focus on leaders who are often missing, such as Henry McNeal Turner, Marcus Garvey, Ida Wells-Barnett, W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, and Malcolm X.”
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For some, the very existence of Black History Month helps feed the notion that African American history isn't American history. Lloyd Marcus, chairman of the Conservative Campaign Committee certainly thinks so:
“I think it is time for Black History Month to end. Rather than focusing on contributions by blacks, educators, the media, and the Democratic Party chose to focus on promoting the lie that blacks are eternal victims of an eternally racist America," says Marcus. “Am I saying to ignore the mistreatment of blacks in American history? Absolutely not. I am simply saying tell the whole story.”
However, the consensus among pundits, activists and historians seems to be that there is yet work to be done in educating not only blacks, but all Americans, about the contributions of people of African descent across the spectrum of life in the U.S. and abroad, and this annual celebration is key to the struggle.
"Black History Month is needed now more than ever because there is a need for the younger generations to be informed about history in general, and African American history in particular," Franklin says. "It allows exposure to past events that shaped the nation and focuses attention on the numerous and varied contributions made to the nation's development by people of African descent."
Michael Coard, a Philadelphia-based attorney and founding member of the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition agrees that dedicating February to our past is still important.
“Black History Month is necessary as long as racism for white America is necessary,” he says. “From 1619-1868 in the colonies and in America, Africans and their descendants were legally designated as chattel, with no history, no culture, and no accomplishments. Black History Month has begun to dispel that myth by exposing the maliciously hidden truth about our glorious past. As soon as the disease of American racism stops, the cure of [Black History Month] can gladly stop.”
The theme for this year’s Black History Month celebration is "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington," a reference to the respective 150th and 50th anniversaries of these two world-changing events. But even as President Barack Obama made his second inaugural speech on January 21, we were reminded that even at this late date, there is still work to be done.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth.”
Do you think celebrating Black History Month is detrimental to securing our place in American history? Tell us in the Comments!
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