"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated." Carter G. Woodson, Father of Black History, by Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Why is Black History Month still under attack? Better yet, why are African Americans being used to do it? Better still, why are we broadcasting old interviews attacking Black History Month on its first day? Black History Month was originally called Negro History Week by its founder Carter G. Woodson in 1926. My parochial schools in Illinois never celebrated it.
In case you missed it, "Morgan Freeman on Black History Month" was uploaded in April of 2009, and it is being tweeted and recirculated now during the 2011 Black History Month: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeixtYS-P3s&feature=player_embedded
The purpose of Black History Month
The purpose in 1926 was to preserve the history and legacy of African American men and women and to educate all people about those contributions. That is yet the purpose today. I am so proud of all my GenFriends who are commemorating by searching out Civil War ancestors. They are even now finding success. I celebrate their history because it is also my history.
The absence of history
Let me get a little personal for a moment. I know what it feels like to be left out of the historical picture. My parents sent me to predominantly white schools all my life. There was not a black face in any school book. If I had not the good sense, or probably Divine Inspiration, from 3rd grade until today to seek out role models such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and the like all during my formative years, I might have succumbed to such teachings as "the color black stands for evil, dark, and wickedness" (English teacher expounding on Shakespeare) or a countless other misconceptions. The Reconstruction Era and all its heroes were completely left out of my American History lessons.
Teach the youth
Today, with all the distractions of television, gaming, and the internet, I am not quite sure students can muster the creativity on their own to search out the voices of those who help to define one's true worth. They are left to the mercy of those who define them.
I was invited to help a local middle school celebrate the 2010 Black History Month by helping students use FamilySearch products to identify ancestors, collect oral history, and fill out pedigree charts. They were among the first to use the wiki.familysearch.org and Record Search (now Historical Records on FamilySearch Internet). They used it last February even before many in the genealogy community knew it existed. It is a country school, and we discovered we either knew each others ancestors or were related to each other. I will never forget the bonds we formed and the pride they took in their ancestry. Knowing your history obligates you to your forebears. This is more motivating than a thousand lectures.
I was invited to their Black History Program on the final day. I was astounded to see many of their parents and grandparents that I knew and that knew my ancestors. I am quite certain that even though this was only one month out of the year, we all still feel the impact and importance of the event.
We are not what we have been taught
Lastly, I am a great fan of this statement of Carter G. Woodson:
"...to handicap a student for life by teaching him his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worse kind of lynching. It kills one's aspirations and dooms him to vagabondage and crime." See "The Crisis," Aug 1931, pg 266.
Black History Month is a social event. Those who embrace documenting and preserving our history will experience great healing and joy. We sift through terrible events that ancestors endured, but our faith is renewed and bitterness is rooted out. If bitterness is our end, we have lost perspective! As we share our history with our family and friends, they come to appreciate our experience and recognize our strengths.
We have nothing to be ashamed of. Can we afford to let someone else continue to tell our story? See Something Neither The Proclamation Nor The Bill of Rights Can Do. We have a great task before us wherein lies the potential to reverse the downward spiral of those doomed to "vagabondage and crime." Those who are cut off from their rich history are the primary concern. Our circle of influence will expand from there outward. We at About Our Freedom know education determines our extent of freedom. Let us press forward!
Please enjoy the following: