Why Black History Month Is Celebrated?
During National Black History Month, we honor the significant contributions of Black Americans to our nation.
We acknowledge that Black history is an integral part of American history, and the essence of Black culture, narratives, and successes fundamentally defines our identity as a country.
The distinct soul of America sets us apart from other nations.
How Black History Month Came To Be?
According to Dartmouth University historian Matthew Delmont, Black communities didn't require a designated week or month to remember and cherish their history.
Delmont notes that they preserved it through diaries, family records, black newspapers, and oral traditions. Each February, as the United States commemorates Black History Month, Delmont engages in conversations with schools and corporations.
How an annual observance started
The acknowledgment of the achievements of African Americans started in 1926 with Negro History Week, a term later replaced by "Black" or "African American."
This week coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation signer, and Frederick Douglass, an anti-slavery advocate who became a social reformer after escaping enslavement.
Historian Carter G. Woodson conceived the week with the vision of extending the celebration of Black accomplishments throughout the entire year.
The history week resulted in educational resources for schools attended by Black students. However, in many segregated schools with predominantly white students, there was limited access to materials highlighting significant Black figures.
According to Michael Hines, an assistant professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, in a video lecture discussing the history of the celebration and the push for social and political equality, Negro History Week directly challenged the prevailing curricula of that time.
These curricula often demeaned and dehumanized Black individuals. Hines emphasizes that Negro History Week went beyond merely acknowledging notable achievements; it served as a call to action.
Half a century later, as the United States marked its bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford extended the weeklong celebration initiated by Negro History Week into a national month-long observance, officially naming it Black History Month.
He expressed the need to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
Currently, Black History Month involves speeches and performances, with schools highlighting notable African Americans.
Figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks have become widely recognized in American history. According to Delmont, while Black Americans always appreciated this history, Black History Month played a crucial role in enlightening others about the significant impact Black Americans have had in the United States.
Given that a substantial portion of history texts predominantly features the experiences of white Americans, Black History Month serves as a vital addition, offering a distinct perspective on the country's past.
Delmont emphasizes that comprehending American history necessitates an understanding of Black American history.
The Black Lives Matter movement and 2020 protests heightened awareness among Americans of all races to the experiences of Black Americans, according to Delmont.
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