By Randall Taylor
Black History Month happens over the course of the month of February and is an empowering month to all in the African-American community. It is a time when we trace our ancestry back and learn about the many famous African-Americans that have made great contributions to the history of this country and the world itself.
Why don’t I give all of you some quick trivia before we start? Black History Month actually began as “Negro History Week” and was created by famed African-American historian, Carter G. Woodson in 1926. It eventually became a month long celebration in 1976 as the month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln respectively.
John Mercer Langston was the first black man to become a lawyer in Ohio in 1854. When he was elected town clerk in Brownhelm, Ohio, in 1855, Langston became one of the first African-Americans ever elected to public office in America. Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Another amazing fact is that in the 1930s, famed painter Charles Alston founded the “306” group, which congregated in his studio space and provided support and apprenticeship for young African-American artists, including Langston Hughes, sculptor Augusta Savage and the mixed-media visionary, Romare Bearden. These people are only the tip of the iceberg in an incredibly extensive timeline of black history.
However, after doing much research and learning more about my ancestors I ask this question: Do we really need a black history month? I asked several black students on and off our campus and they all had one similar opinion, which was that our race needs a black history month to trace back our heritage.
“It is a month to embrace our roots and what we stand for,” said Erik Washington, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major at NYIT. Another opinion by Linesha Davis, sophomore biology major at NYIT, had a different train of thought. “Black History can’t be contained. Every day is black history and should be celebrated as such, not just in February.”
To go along the lines of Davis and Washington, Ayneesha Taylor, a graduate phychology major, said, “I think that it’s necessary because while we have more than just a month of history, it’s necessary to remind us of our history and to teach the youth of their history that they aren’t being taught in schools.”
I agree that our history shouldn’t be relegated and centralized down to just one month. Before anyone gets all riled up, I think many would agree that for all the contributions African-Americans have made to the world, just as other cultures, we shouldn’t keep them tied down to just one month of celebrating their history. Everyday should be another day of celebrating the pride you have in your race and culture.
That said, here is my issue with Black History Month in America. Many seem to think that celebrating it means just paying homage to a couple main black historical figures: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, along with Jackie Robinson.
Now, nothing should ever be taken away from what these activists have done for black people, and even this country itself, but they are not the only black people to have made major contributions to history. Why don’t we hear more about George Washington Carver, inventor of more than 300 different uses for the peanut; or Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. Senate; or even Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives?
I could go on and on and write a book if I wanted to. If black history is going to be restricted to just a month then shouldn’t we as a society use each day to learn more than just a few famous black people?
As previously stated, I agree with it being necessary, but not to be a reminder of where we came from. It should be used to educate the next generation on the famous African-Americans that they don’t learn about in schools today.
Black history is more than just slavery and racism. Black history is an underappreciated chapter of world history, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. In fact, actor Morgan Freeman called Black History Month ridiculous. Of course this statement was taken out of context but the point still stands; it is ridiculous to an extent but also necessary because in the world today, if you truly want to learn then you have to do it yourself.
Overall, I love my ancestors, and much of what we enjoy today wouldn’t have been possible without any of their contributions to world history. I love my people and I’m proud to say that I always make it a point to learn something new about my race every day. Hopefully, people will take a more active role in learning black history or teaching it to their kids. Give them some guidance. Show them where they came from and that greatness is always possible. Let’s prove that what our ancestors fought for and gave their entire lives for was more than just a dream.