February marks the beginning of Black Historical past Month, a federally acknowledged celebration of the contributions African Individuals have made to this nation and a time to mirror on the continued wrestle for racial justice.
Black Historical past Month has turn into one of the vital celebrated cultural heritage months on the calendar, stated LaGarrett J. King, an affiliate professor of social research schooling on the College of Missouri.
Faculties and companies provide Black-history-themed meals, lectures, performs and quizzes whereas main manufacturers roll out clothes, tv specials and content material for customers, which might typically come off as tone-deaf, particularly when presented without context.
King, founding director of the CARTER Middle for Okay-12 Black Historical past Schooling, stated some educators use Black Historical past Month to “disrupt the official narrative,” however many “teach Black history from a white-centered perspective.”
Many American public faculties provide solely sanitized variations of slavery and the civil rights motion, together with biographies of a handful of figures who’re “palatable to white audiences,” King stated. Some provide inaccurate or inappropriate classes resembling slavery reenactments.
Consultants stated understanding Black historical past and studying extra about systemic racism is crucial as our nation faces backlash to civil rights activism such because the George Floyd protests.
This is what you must find out about Black Historical past Month and how one can rejoice appropriately:
Who began Black Historical past Month?
Carter G. Woodson, referred to as the “Father of Black History,” developed Black Historical past Month. Woodson, whose mother and father have been enslaved, was an creator, historian and the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard College.
He acknowledged that the American schooling system provided little or no details about the accomplishments of African Individuals and based the Affiliation for the Research of Negro Life and Historical past, now referred to as the Affiliation for the Research of African American Life and Historical past.
In 1926, Woodson proposed a nationwide “Negro History Week,” which was intended to showcase everything students learned about Black history throughout the school year, King said.
It wasn’t until 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, that President Gerald Ford expanded the week into Black History Month.
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Why is Black History Month in February?
Woodson chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, a famed abolitionist who escaped from slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln, who formally abolished slavery.
Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day, the anniversary of the approval of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865. Richard Wright, who was enslaved and became a civil rights advocate and author, lobbied for the celebration of the day, CNN reported, citing the National Constitution Center.
Although the day is not a federal holiday, President Harry Truman recognized National Freedom Day in 1949 and urged citizens to pause to contemplate its significance.
Why is Black History Month important?
Woodson believed it was essential for young African Americans to understand and be proud of their heritage.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history,” he said.
Before the country can move past racial harm, there needs to be “truth, then accountability and then maybe reconciliation,” said Dionne Grayman, who trains schools to have difficult conversations about race.
Failing to understand the history of race and racism and a strong desire to overlook the worst aspects of racist violence in the United States has fueled resentment toward civil rights activism, said Dan Hirschman, an assistant professor of sociology at Brown University in Rhode Island.
That resentment is cultivated by groups including right-wing media and white supremacists, he said.
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For example, Hirschman said he sees calls to move past the storming of the Capitol last month. He warned that achieving racial progress, such as electing Joe Biden as president, can trigger an immense backlash.
“We have to sort of assume that’s going to happen and try to work to make sure it doesn’t,” he stated.
Hirschman said the outpouring of support, particularly from white Democrats, for the Black Lives Matter movement during the nationwide racial justice protests in the wake of Floyd’s death was a positive step toward recognizing more enduring forms of structural racism.
Like the protests, Black History Month provides an opportunity to center the curriculum and broader public conversation on these issues, but it shouldn’t be the only moment to do so, Hirschman said.
“It can’t do all the work,” he said.
Here’s how to celebrate Black History Month
The theme of Black History Month 2021 is “The Black Household: Illustration, Identification, and Variety,” chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Many establishments, together with the ASAALH and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, provide digital programming for these celebrating at residence.
The NAACP offers guidance for businesses on the easiest way to honor Black Historical past Month.
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King urged blackpast.org, Black History 101 Mobile Museum and the books “A Black Ladies’s Historical past of the US” and “From Slavery to Freedom” as resources for those looking to learn more about Black history.
King emphasised that educators ought to “teach Black history from Black perspectives.” He offered seven guiding principles for educators to explore when teaching Black history:
- Power, oppression and racism
- Black agency, perseverance and resistance
- Africa and the African diaspora
- Black joy and Black love
- Black identities – other than heterosexual, Christian, middle-class Black men
- Black historical contention and the problematic aspects of Black history
- Black excellence
One area to focus on is getting “an accurate understanding of Reconstruction,” the interval after the Civil Struggle, to assist Individuals higher perceive “contemporary forms of racialized violence like mass incarceration,” Hirschman stated.
He stated it’s necessary to acknowledge the various methods racism is baked into America’s foundational systems.
“It’s definitely deeply worked into the structure of the country,” he stated.
Grayman, a workers developer at Morningside Middle for Instructing Social Accountability in New York Metropolis, stated instructing Black historical past ought to transcend the month of February. A former English trainer, she urged together with extra Black authors resembling James Baldwin into the literary canon.
“The historical contributions of Black people need to be integrated into the curriculum,” Grayman stated.
Comply with N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg