The current celebration of Black History Month is the first one that occurs during the new Trump administration and these are certainly challenging times. For instance, in an attempt to acknowledge Black History Month, which Trump called African American History Month, WEB Dubois’ name, was misspelled on the Trump literature: it was spelled Debois. Imagine, W.E.B. Dubois was one of the most prominent luminaries in Black history. Also, in an address to the public, Trump referred to Frederick Douglass as though he was still alive. In a related move, Vice President Pence, in honoring Black History Month, cited a white man, former president Abraham Lincoln, because he freed the slaves.
This sad state of affairs highlights how deep the current administration is mired in white supremacy and ignorance of the Black condition. It is apparent that little, if anything, is really known about the magnificent achievements that can be attributed to Black people, and part of this can be chalked up to a “whitening” of history. Recently, it was reported that some whites were angry because the great general Hannibal was depicted as Black. We know now that he was Black. Moreover, if a closer reading of the Bible through the lens of logic were to take place, it would become apparent that many of the people in the Bible were Black.
Basically, it is important that all of us, and especially our youth, understand that Black history did NOT START WITH SLAVERY! Unfortunately, when young people discuss Black History they relate to slavery and the struggles against it. If we look at Egyptian hieroglyphics we will note that the early Egyptians were Black. Of course, traditional scholarship eschews this notion, but closer scrutiny reveals the whitewashing of history.
Actually, if we want to understand the triumphs of Black history, we have but to look at the achievements of Black people today. Black people are high achievers in every area of endeavor, though there is a tendency to highlight sports and entertainment. The truth, however, goes far deeper than this. In spite of the fact that Blacks have been severely oppressed as a result of slavery, Jim Crow, and the “new” Jim Crow, a number of Black people have made fantastic contributions to society. A case in point can be seen in the movie Hidden Figures. How many people actually knew that African American women played such an important role in the space program? The main reason for the revelation of this story was due to the fact that an African American female scholar wrote a book about it. Hidden Figures is just the tip of the iceberg! This situation is instructive, in that we cannot wait for others to tell our stories. If our youth are to understand the shoulders upon which they stand, their self-esteem, and hence, achievement levels would be greatly enhanced. We must also understand that enemies of the community have a vested interest in keeping the truth hidden, because lack of historical accuracy keeps people in the dark. This darkness can translate into “ignorance” among, not only Black people, but among all people. This is why Donald Trump and his minions believe that Blacks had nothing to lose if they voted for him.
There is a legend attributed to an unknown ancestor that goes like this: “What became of the Black People of Sumer?” the traveler asked the old man, “for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. What happened to them?” “Ah,” the old man sighed. “They lost their history, so they died.” -A Sumer Legend
This is a truism; if we do not unearth our own history and build on it, people will continue to devalue Black lives and the power elite will continue to use this lack of knowledge against the people.
There are a lot of Black scholars who have written books that would help give people a more balanced view of Black history. One of these, and a good place to start, is The Destruction of Black Civilization by the late great Chancellor Williams. Knowledge is power, and educating ourselves beyond the stunted version of Black history that is being spoon fed our people will help move us forward toward true liberation! A luta continua.