Author: Taylor Leslie
Why our month should be appreciated and what we can learn from it.
Every year during the month of February mainstream media does the same thing. They play us segments of “I Have a Dream” and give us simplified versions of the Civil Right Movement. They tell the kids cute stories about how Rosa Parks sat on the bus and how people of all colors marched hand in hand for freedom. And if they’re feeling real risky they might sprinkle a few “facts” about Malcolm X. They hold back from us leaders and revolutionaries like W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Medgar Evers, Bayard Rustin, and Huey Newton. They seem to not touch on the strong black women like Assata Shakur, Kathleen Cleaver, and Angela Davis. Instead we are annually bombarded with the achievements of iconic figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, or Rosa Parks. By the small chance that we actually do hear about the teachings of not so mainstream accepted figures like Malcolm X or The Black Panther Party, we are taught that these ideas are “radical”, “impractical”, and “disruptive” to the progression of Black people. We are told that the men who led slave revolts like Nat Turner are terrorists. This article is not to say that these mainstream leaders weren’t important and completely essential to their movements, but there are so many more stories to be told than just theirs.
Does anybody even know how Black History Month came about? It gets looked over so easily, and many people don’t even acknowledge it. Black History Month actually started out as a very humble Negro History Week created by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. After seeing all the books that left out achievements of African Americans he decided that there need to be a specific time to honor these greats. It was picked to be the second week of February because it coincided with both President Lincoln’s and Fredrick Douglas’s birthdays during this week. After years of celebration in 1976 leaders of Kent State’s Black United Students decided to expand the week to the whole month of February because a week simply was not enough.
With every great creation there is always going to be some criticism. A lot of people argue that black history should not be narrowed down to one month; it should be celebrated every day of the year. In a way I do agree with this; the history of our people should not be limited to month of February. However, for those who don’t have a black heritage this month of celebration gives them a chance to learn something about a history that is not their own. This is why it is so important for mainstream media to display a variety of different black figures and events because for some people this is all the exposure to black history that they will get. And for those of who do know a good amount of black history spend the month learning about those heroes that are not talked about as much. Read autobiographies, watch documentaries, or visit a museum. Don’t just limit yourself to the Civil Rights Movement, black history transcends that brief period of time. As long as you’re learning something new this Black History Month you’re celebrating it correctly.