When I didn't see a node for Black History Month, I was rather startled. It makes me wonder if the only reason I know it so well is because I went to a primarily black high school
. At least 90% of the students were black
, and probably the other 9% were asian
, and then I was left in that 1% of white
people. Black History Month was greatly emphasized in our English
classes, and we learned about many "famous
" black people. But really, I wonder about the month. In case you didn't know, that month is February
. And I'm not sure, but I'm assuming that this is only celebrated in the United States
The following is taken from www.infoseek.com, and is a brief description of the history of Black History Month.
Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied—or even documented—when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.
Blacks Absent from History Books
We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population—and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.
Established Journal of Negro History
Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.
Unfortunately, the actual success of this month in my opinion is questionable. The people we learn about are so haphazard and random that the only thing that ties them together is that they're black, usually. Generally, the important people, like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, etc., the people who made truly significant and noteworthy differences throughout history, are recognized in history classes in modern days. Yet still, every year, I was forced to read a paragraph or a page about these people each day during February, when, I didn't particularly care very much in the first place (as much as I don't care about "white history"). But I didn't have a problem, because it wasn't totally pointless. Those were the people who made a difference, and they deserved recognition.
My problem was with the little people. Not to belittle their works, but I didn't particularly care to know who created the gas mask or the traffic light. The point of teaching these things, I'm assuming, is to show that black people are every bit as talented as white people and that they deserve a place in society.
I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I'd like to think that the world has gotten to a point where black people don't need these teachings as a crutch. It's the same way with Affirmative Action. Before we can live in harmony and equality, everyone is going to need to be able to live comfortably without special programs and without special encouragement. There's no white history month, nor should there be.
Then again, perhaps my view of the world is skewed because I live near DC, a huge melting pot, and not somewhere less diverse.
Another negative effect of the month is that everything tends to be centralized in February. By putting everything in that one month, they neglect to focus on it throughout the year, and it's as if it's segregated from the "white education". It's kind of ironic, really.
I realize that there are other months dedicated to other ethnic groups, and I'm as every bit against them as I am against Black History Month. It all makes me wonder why people partition themselves off like that when they claim to be moving towards integration.
But, as I said, my opinion is skewed because of how the world looks to me. I would like to hear the opinion of people who live in places less diverse than DC, because maybe there is an advantage to Black History Month that I just don't see.