Black History Month Begins Today

February 1, 2019

Every year at this time, I have the same mixed feelings (as a white person) about Black History Month: the importance of honoring and celebrating Black history; and my discomfort with the fact that Black history isn't woven seamlessly every day into U.S. history, since Black history IS U.S. history: part and parcel of it; inextricable from it. 

 

This country was built on the backs of Black people.

 

Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week, which was created in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. He designated the second week of February because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (on February 12) and of Frederick Douglass (on February 14). 

 

As a white person, I so appreciate the concentrated focus on Black stories and Black history. February's designation as Black History Months provides an organizing principle around which families, schools, and communities can hold a wide variety of events and discussions about Black life in America. It offers a "reason" for us to learn about and deepen our knowledge of the outstanding contributions of Black citizens in the past and today, and to wrestle with the enormous price Black Americans have had to pay--and continue to pay--in the service of white supremacy.

 

I look forward to the day when we can celebrate Black history month in February, but elevate and learn about Black history every day of the year.

 

Observing Black History Month only makes sense if we have a commitment to celebrating Black history and confronting with the issues of racism and white supremacy all year long.

 

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