California State University East Bay

#ThrowbackThursday: Celebrating Black History Month

February 5, 2015

February 6th 2014

I’ve been able to curb my growing need to shout, “It’s Black History Month!” to my friends and colleagues this week, but I can’t dismiss the feeling of disparity at realizing that no one is talking about Black History Month right now. Not even me.

Just how many people are unaware of the importance of Black History Month and the methodology of the month long celebration? Who exactly is Black History Month even relevant to?

I am shocked by the amount of eyes that I see roll whenever Black History Month is mentioned. If I had a dollar for every time I heard some beg the question, “Why do they need a whole month?” I would be paying off a Harvard education right now.

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Why do we need a month? Far too many people suffer with the misconception that African Americans have a month because of slavery. Someone must have felt bad that Blacks were enslaved so once they were free they got a month. No. Slavery is not the answer to that question. BHM is not just about slavery.

And it is certainly not exclusive to African Americans. Garrett Morgan was not only the first African American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio but he was the one to develop gas masks and the first traffic signal. I am pretty sure African Americans are not the only ones to use traffic signals. That development was an accomplishment for everyone.

Why do we need a month? Because we asked for it.

For those of you reading this and thinking, “…what about Japanese American history, or Mexican American history…” you should be hard pressed to advocate for your own month! Let us all share in YOUR history too. But in the meantime the 28 days of February are reserved.

Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in Febuary 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Negro History Week later turned into Black History Month. According to Woodson, if a race does not have history there can be no worthwhile tradition. “It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” he said.

And yet, 88 years after its inception, there is still a struggle to make Black history part of the American history curriculum in this nation’s public schools. African American history is such a major part of the history of this nation but it is still being swept under the rug by our education system. I am by no means saying that one culture’s history is more important than others, but Black History Month was created for a reason and we should not forget to remember it.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. should not be the only historically black figures that most people can recognize on the spot. African American inventors have been responsible for the fire extinguisher, air-conditioning, thermostat control, the horseshoe, peanut butter and long list of other things that we all use today. Every person, not just those of African descent share in those accomplishments.

It is time for this to be common knowledge, and not just for 28 days out of the year. It is about more than enrolling in one African American history course to satisfy your GE requirement.

We can start by forgetting about every cookie cutter piece of information that everybody already knows. Martin Luther King Jr. is more than just the I Have A Dream speech guy. Learn about Dr. Charles Drew who made the existence of blood banks possible.

It was his dissertation on banking blood that made it possible to store blood for longer periods of time by extracting the plasma from it. Otis Boykin invented the electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, and the pacemaker.

Realize that Black history is for everyone. Do not forget to remember that it is a part of you too, no matter what color you are.

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