Black History Month: Beyond 28 Days ✊?

Bald, Bearded, & Blessed hopes that your 2019 has gotten off to a fabulous start. It is amazing to think the first month of the year is already in the rear view mirror.  As we step into the month of February, we observe this month for two significant things; Valentine’s Day and Black History Month.  In this blog, we will enlighten readers on the origin and criticisms of the observance of Black History in the month of February.  In addition, we will explore the question, “Should the observance of black history be relegated to only 28 days from a world view?”

The Origin of Black History Month

When it comes to the celebration of Black History Month, most people typically take the opportunity to celebrate  important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.  But, how many people really know how Black History Month was birthed? Let’s take a look at the timeline and the significant individuals who played an intricate part in the implementation of Black History Month.

In 1926 in the United States, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed the second week of February as Negro History Week.  The second week of February was chosen, because the birthdays for both President Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and Fredrick Douglas (February 14) are in that week. By 1929, officials with the State Department of Education in several states made Negro History Week known to the state’s teachers and circulated literature about it.  Soon after, churches, mainstream and black press joined the effort. Negro History Week initiated the creation of black history clubs and attracted the interest of white progressives.  In decades that followed, Negro History Week was endorsed by city mayors across the U.S.

In February of 1969, black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed celebrating Black History Month.  One year later Black History Month was celebrated at Kent State University. President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1975.  This lead to Black History Month celebrated across the U.S.

Under the leadership of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, Ghanaian analyst, he coordinated efforts for the Greater London Council to celebrate Black History Month in London in 1987.  Black History Month is now celebrated throughout the United Kingdom.

Politician Jean Augustine filed a motion with the Canadian House of Commons in 1995 and recognized Black History Month for black Canadians.  Black History Month was unanimously approved for all of Canada in 2008.  Senator Donald Oliver was instrumental in having the Senate to officially recognize the entire month to celebrate.  As the fourth country in the world to celebrate February as Black History Month, the Republic of Ireland did it in 2014.



Only 28 Days for Black History?

Now that we have a backdrop of how Black History Month originated, there is a question that critics ask; “Should the celebration of Black History be relegated to 28 days?  Here are the main critiques of celebrating Black History Month in February.

  • The celebration of one race in only 28 days versus the integration of black history into the study of American history is inappropriate. Most studies of black history are void of the vast history of African Americans who helped shape American culture.
  • There is a lack of the richness of African American history being taught in public schools. Most of the African American history taught in public schools centers around slavery, the Civil Rights era, and the prominent historical African American leaders we have been exposed to in literature, readings, and documentaries.
  • Black history is often celebrated from an historical perspective. However, African American accomplishments and contributions to American culture occur in both a past tense and present tense manner.


Celebrate Black History Beyond 28 Days

Since Black history has so much more depth than can be recognized and celebrated in 28 days, how can one celebrate such history without confining it? When African Americans make contributions that shape American culture and creates unprecedented landmarks, this should be bolstered up and celebrated. With the social media landscape, it is much easier to put the accomplishments of African American in the public eye.  For an African American to be the first and/or only one to obtain a noteworthy accomplishment, the month of February should not be the only time he or she gets recognized. One could argue that African American history is American history.  Actor Morgan Freeman strongly criticized the concept of Black History Month.  He stated, “I don’t want a Black History month. Black history is American history”.

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