Black History Month (originally Negro History Week) was established in 1926 in an attempt to promote black history learning among the general population. Before it’s establishment, black faces were systematically left out of American history and black history in education was viewed overall as unimportant and unnecessary.
Since it’s founding, there has been a ceaseless resistance to learning about black history and the positive images of African Americans that it conjures. Amazingly, nearly 100 years later, many individuals still fail to see the importance of this heritage month.
So why is black history important?
For many, thoughts about discrimination, profiling and police brutality provoke constant reminders of our nation’s dark history. The sad story of Emmett Till‘s brutal murder is etched in our minds along with lynchings and “White only” signs of the Jim Crow era. We can recall the assassinations of black civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. But still, many individuals avoid discussions about discrimination and more specifically, racism.
This is problematic because our avoidance results in a lack of understanding about the issue and an overall apathy towards victims of racism and racial profiling. Apathy then leads to the abuse of our justice system and allows people of color across this country to be victimized, simply because those in power have a skewed view of the facts. As we know, history tends to repeat itself when we fail to learn from our mistakes.
This is where Black History Month comes in with a solution to the problem. It can teach us much of what is needed to bridge the gap between racially constructed communities and gives us all the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions that African Americans have made to America. Put simply, we have the benefit of learning and growing through our mistakes.
Let’s not allow this opportunity to slip through our fingers.
Ideas for celebrating Black History Month:
- Celebrate Black History Month in schools, at church and in your home.
- Educate your children about racism AND the positive contributions of Black Americans.
- Find local Black History Month events to attend with your family, friends and co-workers.
- Watch documentaries and read literature about slavery, black history and successful black leaders.
- Support programs that mentor and empower black youth through education.
- Support programs that help to further anti-racism and dissolve workplace discrimination.
- Visit black history museums and learn more about Slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow.