February is well known to be Black History Month in America, recognizing African Americans for the many contributions they’ve made to this country’s history throughout the years. It is derived from historian Carter G. Woodson’s 1926 designation of “Negro History Week,” commemorating the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Woodson hoped that Black History would eventually become fundamental to American history and the specially designated week could be done away with. In view of Woodson’s hope, it begs the question, is our current incarnation of Black History Month little more than a cleverly disguised insult to the African American community?
History is history, and all of it, good or bad, black or white, is part of our history. We do not have a “White History” month, so why have we set Black History aside to receive only one month of recognition? Is it in essence saying that White History is taken for granted while Black History must be specially focused upon so it is not forgotten? Does continuing to perpetuate a month long remembrance reinforce the fact that Black History is not yet a fundamental part of American history yet? If so, then this is the greatest jab that could be sent against the Black community.
In elementary school history books, we are all taught about George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, but why are we only taught about other famous Black historical contributions during the month of February? Black History is history and should be given the benefit of being considered part of all American history, not just a small section on its own. To quote Morgan Freeman “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” … “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American History.”
Having a specially designated Black History Month does little more than reinforce bigotry, and it continually points out the differences between Black and White Americans. Instead of treating us all as one people whose history is combined, Black History Month draws a line between skin colors. If we are ever to be one people, we must stop drawing these lines. We must accept all history as history, and cease breaking it down by racial segments. Rather than adding a special month to address the many contributions of African Americans to our country’s history, perhaps we should scrap the narrowly-informative history books our children currently learn from and instead fill in the missing parts to include ALL of our country’s history as one history.