Black History Month is celebrated every February, yet I don’t think many know how this observance began. Initially it was a week in February called Negro History Week, containing both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthday. After the first celebration there was an overwhelming amount of support which later led to it becoming a month-long celebration in 1976. Up until googling when Black History Month originated from, I didn’t know this. For a month as important as this one, why is it that my place of education failed to teach me about its origins?
Schools everywhere need to improve in terms of discussing this vital celebration, and teaching black history in general. Some teaching courses go more in-depth than others, but all could benefit with more emphasis on celebrating the black men and women who helped build today’s America.
The creator of Black History Month, Carter G. Woodson, wanted this celebration to be about informing people of the successes of black people that were achieved independently, without the assistance of a white person, and to not focus solely on slavery as a central topic for black history. Despite these wishes being well documented, in today’s schools we still see an extreme lack in education of black history in this capacity.
Often when I think of Black History, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful protests, I think of slave trades, I think of the Civil War and this isn’t what it should be! Black History education should be about people who did great things outside of racial injustice. We should be talking about how black figures created Jazz and the roots of other music genres people love, about the culture in Africa and not just touching upon Africa as part of the slave trade. Instead, talk about the mythologies the culture made, the way their government and royalty works, etc.
Along with more in-depth education of the past, this is a time to be highlighting the black men and women alive today who achieve great things. Ranging from authors like Tomi Adeyemi, to influencers like Karamo Brown, to doctors like Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Celebrating the firsts is important but only a small part of what we should be doing. Black History Month should be a month with emphasis on supporting black owned businesses and sharing information to make tomorrow a better day. In fact this should go beyond a month. One day I hope this becomes the norm. That Black History not be emphasised for only a month, but in life in general.
In my own school life I’ve only noticed two things come out of Black History Month, and that’s a display of books that the GSA reccomends to read and a display of some influential figures the GSA wants you to know more about. And those were student run, not required by the school. We only just started observing MLK day this year! We need more! I hope that after putting in the work now to bring these topics to attention, years down the line, my own kids will be much more educated on Black History than when I was their age.