Black History Month started out as Black History Week, so designated by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1926. It was celebrated the second week in February. Later, in 1976 it became Black History Month. February was chosen because it was the birthdate of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (February 14), both birthdates celebrated by the Black community since the late 19th century.
Increasingly, a lot of people are voicing criticism about the need for a month to be set aside to honor Black history. There are those who feel that Black history should be honored all year round. This viewpoint is partially feasible, but why would it have to be either/or; it is appropriate for both and, i.e., to celebrate in February and all year long. It is interesting to witness how people with original ideas introduce a concept that becomes part of our cultural fabric only to have people criticize them. Apparently, when Dr. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History introduced the idea back in the day, there was perceived to be a need for it.
Today, it has become evident that a new focus on Black history is, indeed, needed. Schools have failed to present the contributions of Black people with an even hand. This may be because the dominant, white oriented culture was just unaware of the dynamic history forged by Black people, or because of a deliberate decision to obfuscate, to deceive, and to hide the fantastic contributions made by Blacks.
Not keeping an accurate focus on Black history has two notable effects. For one, it encourages some white people to feel smug in the alleged notion of white-defined supremacy. On the other hand, it keeps a certain group of Black people in the dark regarding who they really are. This tends to reinforce ideas of white supremacy among Black people. Our youth, who have grown up on a steady diet of rap music, sports stats, and watered down history that focuses disproportionately on the history of slavery in America, miss out on deeper information like the legend of Timbuktu, the Olmec of South America, the identity of the Egyptian pyramid builders, and more. The observance of Black history has become so superficially routine that some of our high school youth don’t know the difference between the Civil Rights era and the one just before the end of slavery. One high school student actually asked his high school principal if she had known Harriet Tubman, and thought that Dr. King died long, long ago.
The need for a renewed change in focus regarding Black history can be seen in a new meme that is circulating which says that slaves were not brought from Africa; doctors, philosophers, statesmen, etc. were brought from Africa and became enslaved. This shifts the narrative somewhat. In other words, there is a history of Blacks BEFORE slavery. In addition to this, it is being revealed that Blacks have done a lot of very remarkable things; that incredible inventions and accomplishments previously unknown to many white people AND Black people have become evident. A case in point is the remarkable Black female mathematicians depicted in the movie “Hidden Figures” who made it possible for the U.S. to land on the moon. Moreover, it is increasingly obvious that Black people have been involved in the development of modern technology such as contributions to GPS development, the internet, cell phones and more. Also, a new development has surfaced, and the news is still pretty much under the radar. A whole new iteration of history is being revealed by the discovery of skulls in South Africa that indicate a previously unknown branch of humanity called the Boskop. Traditionally, intelligence has been assessed based on cranial capacity. The skulls belonging to a group of South African Blacks, the Boskop people, have an average cranial capacity greater than all of the humanity that exists today. This is intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how this shakes out as more undiscovered greatness is revealed. A new era of Black history can help Black people shake off the cobwebs of forgetfulness in order to connect with the greatness that is waiting to be released from within. There is a lot to be discovered. A Luta Continu.