February time to recognize importance of black contributions, accomplishments

Opinions Columnist | Public relations freshman

Black History Month is a time for remembrance and recognition of the accomplishments, innovations and contributions of black people throughout history.  

Black History Month traces its origins to 1926 when black historian Carter G. Woodson proposed a week of recognition. Originally, the time of remembrance was during the second week of February. Two important figures in the black community, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, were born during the second week of the month.

A brief history lesson—Abraham Lincoln is important to black history as the U.S. president who freed slaves after the Civil War. Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave and famed abolitionist who became an accomplished author and highly praised orator for his beliefs on equality for all people—black, female, Native American and more.  

One could easily understand why Woodson would choose that specific week in February to be hailed as “Negro History Week.” This tradition started out as simply teaching students about black contributions and history. It inevitably began to grow larger in states with significant black populations throughout the 20s-30s.

However, it was not until 1976 that the U.S. government transcended what Woodson had proposed as “Negro History Week” into what is known today as Black History Month. President Ford at the time said Americans needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

I think this sentiment is still relevant to us today. It has been 38 years and black history is still stifled by misinformation, stereotypes and victimhood. Americans should take this month to look into the varied black contributions to technology, fashion, music, philosophy and more both within our country and outside of it. Even with the majority of black history literally being in shackles and bondage, blacks in America and around the world have contributed a vast amount to society.

Naysayers often bemoan the fact that black people get their own month whereas white people do not—a laughable stance. We live in the U.S., a Eurocentric society where every month is “white history month.” It is important to share the contributions made by others that, as President Gerald Ford said, are often overlooked in a society that sees the world from the perspective of “white
is right.”

Throughout the school system in this country, the only thing that seems to be universally discussed when it comes to black people is slavery. As if the only thing we have done in this country is be slaves. It is an important part of our history to note and discuss for a variety of reasons, but our humanity and our strength in overcoming adversity and hatred is just as important.

The contributions we have made to this great country literally off our backs and out of our minds should be taught in schools year-round. We are more than our oppressors made us out to be and what stereotypes have come to define us as. That is why Black History Month is important—black history is so much more than just a namesake. Black history is American history and world history, plain and simple.