Black History Month


Sasha A. Murray, Staff Writer

With the end of February, it is important to recognize and understand the significance of this month. February is Black History Month; a 28-day celebration that highlights the trials and triumphs that the black population has faced throughout American history. It started out as a week-long commemoration led by Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASLAH).  According to Kandace Redd from ABC 10 News, “…negro history week, now commonly referred to as Black History Week, was meant to commemorate and celebrate the contributions to the U.S. made by people of African descent and was first celebrated during the second week of February in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.” Black History Week was established during the birthweek of these two figures because of their influence on black Americans. Lincoln’s influence on the emancipation of slaves and Douglass’ prominent leading during the abolitionist movement were pivotal moments within black history that will always be remembered. During the mid sixties, Black History Week became a month-long celebration backed by the persistence of college students. They along with other groups spoke out and encouraged ASLAH to seek recognition from the federal government. Then in February 1975, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month, encouraging Americans to come together and join in tribute to embrace its message of courage and perseverance.

Black History Month is commemorated through a range of activities, including the Martin Luther King parade; various events held at universities, churches, museums, and public schools, and within black communities across America. For example, churches will host parades and promote programs to educate and inform their community. Though these are the more well-known examples, there are smaller, equally significant ways of participating as well. Families celebrate by sharing stories and by attending community events; ensuring that their own families are well-versed in black history as well.

Black history being taught at the educational level fails to adequately depict the life of the black population. It does not accurately depict black history in a thorough manner, disregarding an extremely vast amount of information due to its comfortability. There were so many figures throughout black history who made big changes yet they remain unknown just because they were not Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. Unfortunately the history of Rosa Parks is not accurate. Despite what is commonly taught in schools, she was not the first person to ever refuse to give up their seat on the bus. The first was Claudette Colvin, a woman to be remembered. Rosa Parks gained the recognition Claudette Colvin should have received, which is yet another way school systems have fallen short. The National Council of Negro Women, Malcom X, African American Leadership Organization, Mary Jackson, Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, and many more are countless examples proving history is not defined by the educational system. It is so much deeper and richer than what will ever be taught within school systems; this is due to the educational system’s continuous loop hole curriculum, leaving key points out in order to avoid confrontational topics. 

Another example of this would be with the 6888th battalion: the only all African-American, all-women U.S Army unit sent overseas during World War II. During the war, their job was to deliver mail to the active and injured soldiers. Though this may seem like a small task, it was quite admirable. These women never failed to perform their duties despite the conditions. Not only was it dangerous for them racially, they had to locate soldiers despite only having a minimal amount of information. Some letters were only identified by a first name, yet the women would successfully find and deliver hope to these soldiers. Fighting in World War II took its toll so the letters provided these men with a reason to keep going, creating a sliver of hope.

Malcolm X was a African-American leader in the civil rights movement and supporter of black nationalism who urged the black population to “protect themselves against white aggression by any means necessary.” Unlike MLK, Malcolm did not preach for equality, he instead argued for black economic autonomy and promoted the creation of a separation policy to allow black power or black excellence to prosper on its own. His promotion of black separatism does not coincide with segregation. Malcom wanted blacks to have their own separate fully-functioning and equally treated society to allow growth not only financially, but culturally as well. He was also a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam up until 1964, later breaking away due to his discovery of the NOI’s unsteady foundation through its revelations of sexual misconduct and foundation built of lies. He then dismissed the leadership of Muhammad and founded his own organization labeled, Muslim Mosque, later that year. He then proceeded to dismiss the majority of his teachings from his time at NOI claiming that he was misused by Muhammed’s racist philosophy. Unfortunately, Malcom X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, the following year, by three members of the Nation of Islam (NOI) because of his public dismiss of Muhammed’s teachings. 

During his time, Malcom X was a very controversial activist. His topics were bold and upfront, which dispersed confusion because there was no middle ground, no in between, you were either with him or you were not. He kept it real with the public, voicing his opinions despite the backlash he would face. One of his beliefs included that black people were chosen by God and that whites would receive divine punishment for their acts of racial oppression towards them. He preached about black oppression with such vigor and determination that it moved black Americans to support him. He was a truly inspirational figure in history yet, is not discussed due to his controversy. 

There is a quote by Toni Morrison that perfectly sums up why there is a lack of knowledge within black history, it says, ”Racial ignorance is a prison from which there is no escape because there are no doors.” The contingency of the lack in history, especially when examining the black population is horrendous; that is why during instances such as black history month, it is even easier to find and educate oneself. Thus creating the pathway that schools are refusing to offer. To sum up, Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to educate and bring awareness to black entirety.