Black History Month should be abolished, claim many Whites. They say it’s nothing more than some reverse racism entitlement nonsense that gives credit to a whiney race of shiftless people who have always received much more than they have ever given to this country.
Moreover, Black History Month, they complain, is unfair to White ethnics whose ancestors came here through Ellis Island and were subjected to harsh discrimination. But instead of complaining, they say, they simply fought through it, pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and in just a few generations, became educated and successful — living the American Dream.
They said they didn’t need no damn English, Irish, Italian, German, Polish, or other history month. So they want to abolish Black History Month right here and right now. And I agree with their conclusion — but certainly not with their reasoning
Why and how did African Americans get Black History Month? Its foundation was laid when Carter G. Woodson — later recognized as the “Father of Black History”— was a student at Harvard University, where, in 1912, he became the first person of enslaved parents to receive a Ph.D. from that elite Ivy League school. During a lecture one day, one of his white professors, Edward Channing, stated: “The Negro had no history.”
This contention was widespread at the time throughout America’s educational system. But on that day, hearing it from the mouth of an instructor at America’s leading university, Woodson was propelled to do something about it.
So after expanding his extensive research, he connected with four Black men. And on Sept. 9, 1915, in Chicago following inspiration from that city’s national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation, which highlighted the impressive progress of Blacks since their enslavement, those five founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.
ASNLH was renamed the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1972 and later became the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, whose mission is to “promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”
To that end, among several other enlightening projects throughout the decade, Woodson and ASNLH publicly announced Negro History Week in 1925, with the inaugural celebration in February 1926. Although many believe that Woodson and ASNLH chose February because President Abe Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass were born in that month, that’s only part of the reason.
The complete reason is what he described as tradition. He recognized that ever since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and Douglass’ death in 1895, Black folks had begun commemorating the work, and as a result the birthday, of those two great men. Accordingly, in order to reap the benefits of a pre-existing Negro issue-related popularity, Woodson decided to merge into what was already a celebratory and prideful time for African-Americans.
It went from Negro History Week to Black History Week in 1972 and then Black History Month in 1976.
A little known fact about Negro History Week, as noted by ASALH, is that Woodson “never viewed Black history as a one week affair. He pressed for schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what students learned all year. It was in this sense that Blacks would learn of their past on a daily basis that he looked forward to the time when an annual celebration would no longer be necessary.”
Also, he “believed that Black history was too important to America and the world to be crammed into a limited time frame. He spoke of a shift from Negro History Week to Negro History Year.”
That’s precisely why I say abolish Black History Month. It’s much “too important” to be “crammed into a limited time frame.” It requires a year’s worth of official recognition every year.
Why? Because it’s American history and it’s world history. Unlike white ethnics who voluntarily came here with bootstraps to pull up, Black folks were kidnapped, shackled and dragged here bootless beginning in 1619 in Jamestown, Va., when they were enslaved and forced to toil for more than three centuries to build this country.
Therefore, Black History Month should be abolished. However, the great contributions of Blacks in America and throughout the world must be infused, as Edward Robinson proclaimed, into everything that is taught about American history and world history.
The words from David Walker’s Appeal, written in 1829, and the words of Christopher James Perry Sr., founder of the Tribune in 1884, are the inspiration for my “Freedom’s Journal” columns. In order to honor that pivotal nationalist abolitionist and that pioneering newspaper giant, as well as to inspire today’s Tribune readers, each column ends with Walker and Perry’s combined quote- along with my inserted voice- as follows: I ask all Blacks “to procure a copy of this… (weekly column) for it is designed… particularly for them” so they can “make progress… against (racist) injustice.”
Michael Coard, Esquire, can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD 900-AM.
Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune