The tradition that is now celebrated as Black History Month started in 1926 as Black History Week. Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both dates Black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century. In the United States, Black History Week became Black (or African American) History Month in 1970. Today, it is observed here, in the United Kingdom (celebrated in October), Canada, and Germany. Moreover, it is celebrated in the Netherlands, where it is known as Black Achievement Month.
One of the most consistent criticisms of the celebration of Black History Month often heard among Black people is that it is observed during the shortest month of the year. Some have been heard to say, “they GAVE us the shortest month of the year.” This is totally inaccurate, because the timing of the observance was determined by Black people, as pointed out earlier. Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History were responsible for the timing of this majestic observance. The attitude that must be adopted, therefore, is that the best should be made of the time allotted. There is also nothing that can keep us all from observing our triumphs all year long. We don’t have to wait until February.
With that said, one very important value of looking back on our history is that it provides us with a context in which to interpret the present and to create the future. When people do not understand the forces and elements that have shaped their lives, they are faced with losing the value of lessons that could be learned from past experiences.
Chief among these issues is the fact that many young African Americans have no sense of life as Black people before the advent of slavery. Because of this, some of the more informed members of the Black community have started a campaign to teach people that our history didn’t start with slavery. Slaves were not taken from Africa – people were taken from Africa and were made into slaves!
Interestingly, the more we study history, especially history not traditionally taught in schools, it is becoming apparent that Black people have been at the foundation of almost everything that has happened on this planet. And even today, whatever we develop an interest in, we tend to excel. There are still significant challenges, however, that need to be addressed, and it makes all the difference in the world as we move forward in an environment increasingly influenced by toxic white supremacy.
The Black community currently faces one of the most crucial periods of existence ever in the United States, and that’s saying a lot, considering the fact that we have endured the extreme cruelties of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and more. Because of the toxicity that is saturating society, it might be easy for our youth to lose sight of the magnificence of a history that has been kept from them. For example, they must understand that every Black person whose family was impacted by slavery is the survivor of great atrocities. Even though this is the case, we are excelling in every field.
Now, of course no one likes the idea of suffering. But it does have its value. Like diamonds, which are created under pressure, Black people have been refined and strengthened by historical challenges in America. The only thing standing in our way is propaganda that is designed to attack our self-esteem; to make us think we are inadequate or inferior. This could not be further from the truth. Black people have a glorious past, and looking at the strides we are making today, the opportunities are in place to forge a magnificent future.
As mentioned previously, lack of self-esteem is one of our chief stumbling blocks, which is fueled by a lack of self-love. This is the only thing that can keep us from success. We must remember that we cannot be defeated if we are not divided! We must face the future together, and we must let love be our guide as we create new Black History! A Luta Continua.