Here we go again. It’s Black History Month in America, everybody!
As we are in the midst of yet another Black History Month celebration, I can’t help but think about how and why it began. And yes conspiracy theorists, I know that February is the shortest month of the year. But I’m gonna need you to pump your brakes a little bit and listen to me as I let you in on a secret, which is: There’s absolutely no “conspiracy” surrounding the reason Black History Month is held in February – I mean, that’s if you, well, truly know your Black history.
I, for one, can truly appreciate the foundational roots of Black History Month, in that one of my historical heroes, and all-around favorite African American authors, was responsible for its inception. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week,” and after “Negro History Week” became widely accepted, it was extended to a full month, to which we now celebrate as Black History Month. Woodson originally designated “Negro History Week” for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, and 19th century African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
You remember Frederick Douglass, right?
Douglass is the guy who newly elected President Donald J. Trump recently referred to at a breakfast marking the start of Black History Month, as someone who has been “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
I believe President Trump’s response about Douglass, a Black man who died roughly 122 years ago in 1895, is a primary example as to why it’s especially important for us to demand and push for the inclusion of more Black history into American society, as well as into our educational institutions. Trump went on to talk about how proud he was to know that America now has “a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things,” and added that we could learn more about “Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more Black Americans who made America what it is today.”
While I’m glad to know that Trump actually acknowledged Black contributors to American society and culture, it is clear by his comments that he, and many others, could learn quite a bit about Black history and the many contributions Black people have made to society, because America has been denied the overall truth about who we are as a people; what we have accomplished as a people; and what we have contributed as a people.
Black History Month is acknowledged by some, and is completely ignored by others, but that’s okay. It is important that we share the message of what Black people have done and accomplished to everyone during the month of February and beyond – regardless of race.
For me, I consider it a travesty for any American, especially members of our own Black community, to ignore Black history or even limit our historical focus to the month of February only. Black history should be celebrated and acknowledged in America – 365 days a year / 7 days a week / 24 hours a day.
I truly believe that the contributions, achievements and history-making stories about Black people should be heralded; talked about; celebrated; read about; taught about; and celebrated in the very same way our founding fathers are heralded, researched and celebrated.
Carter G. Woodson devoted the majority of his life to historical research and towards working to preserve the history of African Americans in this country. Woodson believed that, “Race prejudice is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”
Woodson accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications because he felt that the contributions of Black people in this country were being overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them. Black history should be highlighted in all of the standard textbooks that are distributed to students in schools, colleges and universities across this country.
While most Americans may know who Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and a few other Black historical figures are, they are often sparingly mentioned in American educational institutions and standard textbooks. There are so many Black Americans who’ve made major contributions to our society, and they deserve the same top-billing that Christopher Columbus gets for finding a land that was already inhabited by people or that the founding fathers receive. I know that’s a tough pill for some of you reading this to swallow, but these are facts – not alternative facts.
We shouldn’t have to wait until a film called Hidden Figures comes out before we know about the contributions of three real-life Black female pioneers – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, who were part of intelligent NASA employees, who calculated, by hand, the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and Glenn to successfully travel safely to space. Why was their story sequestered until now?
Why should the contributions of surveyor Benjamin Banneker, who helped design the city of Washington, D.C., where our presidents and Congress convene, be hidden from us? Why should the discoveries of hundreds of new uses for fruits and vegetables – particularly peanuts – by inventor George Washington Carver be sequestered? Why should the story of physician Dr. Charles Drew, who pioneered the techniques for blood banking and blood transfusions, be sequestered? Why should the story of inventor Garrett Morgan, who had patents, including those for a hair-straightening product, a gas mask, a revamped sewing machine and an improved traffic signal, be sequestered? Why shouldn’t all American students and citizens know about Edward Alexander Bouchet, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Physics from Yale and the sixth American to earn a Ph.D. in Physics in the U.S.? Why shouldn’t Americans know that in spite of all his credentials, Bouchet couldn’t even get a job because he was Black?
These are but a few of the many contributions these Black Americans had on our wonderful country, and these Black Americans should be embraced and exalted to the highest level of significance all year-round – not just in the month of February. I will never accept the premise that I, as a Black man, should be thankful that I am ‘given’ the entire month of February to celebrate Black history – especially when I know that Black history is such a major part of our overall American history.
If you really care about Black people and want to acknowledge Black history this month, I would encourage everyone, regardless of race, to do the following:
Plan a trip to visit the new Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
*Find the closest Black history museums or sites in or near your respective cities and visit
*Demand that there be an increase in the amount of Black history information being included in and taught from textbooks in every school, college and university in the U.S.
*Invest in books and start teaching Black history to your own children in your own homes
*Volunteer your time to teach Black history to the youth at schools, churches, libraries, colleges/universities and organizations in your community
*Volunteer to participate in a Black history program during Black History Month
*Join and/or financially support groups that have an emphasis on Black history education
*Research and further your education about Black history by reading books and surfing the Internet
I challenge all of us to make Black history a year-long tribute that will make an educational impact in the lives of our youth and on every American citizen for years to come.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey has been a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and Primetime Justice with Ashleigh Banfield. Jeffrey has a national daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney, and is a dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org