Black History Deserves More Than a Month

By Cyr, Christopher | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Black History Deserves More Than a Month


Cyr, Christopher, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Throughout grade school and high school, we celebrated Black History Month. Every February we learned about people like Dred Scott, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and countless other African-Americans who influenced American History.

In our English classes, we put away George Orwell's "Animal Farm," and we took out Alex Haley's "Autobiography of Malcolm X." Every class became filled with amazing facts about black culture. We were taught how African-Americans invented everything from peanut butter to the first traffic signal.

Then, once the end of the month rolled around, we would have the traditional school assembly that always ended the same way. Everyone would stand up and sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," and then go home. The next day, all of the old books were back on the desks, and we went on with our "normal" lessons. I repeated this for every one of my 13 years of pre-college education. What started out as an attempt to teach people about the accomplishments of the black race has probably turned into one of the worst obstacles facing the integration of African-American culture into the American educational system. Black History Month was supposed to raise the self-esteem of young blacks, who saw their culture in existing texts only as slaves. Black History Month was supposed to show them that, although slavery was a part of their history, their ancestors had done many great things as well. It was also supposed to help whites respect blacks for their accomplishments. What it wasn't supposed to do was replace the need for integrating black history into the mainstream history books. What happened to the fight for integrating the history of African-Americans into the curriculum for American history? In the '60s, it could be seen everywhere. People were complaining that blacks were not given credit for countless achievements. They were upset that the only image of blacks in the history books across the nation was as slaves who had to be rescued and educated by white society. They fought for the inclusion of black authors in literature classes. The appointment of February as Black History Month was a major achievement for the civil rights movement. …

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