Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Reflections on Black History Month: There Is Still Progress to Be Made

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Reflections on Black History Month: There Is Still Progress to Be Made

Article excerpt

Seventy-eight years ago, Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month, was created to allow for the identification and celebration of the contributions of African Americans in our history and in our presence. While Black History Month promotes African American cultural empowerment and understanding, it also inspires learning for all age groups and ethnicities.

In 1915, the Harvard-trained African American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro (now African American) Life and History (ASALH) to research and document African American history. Woodson felt strongly that a more pervasive and thorough understanding of African American history would accomplish two very critical goals. First, a more in-depth understanding of African American history would promote pride within the Black community. Second, a deeper understanding and appreciation for Black history would foster greater respect for the African American community within the broader society. In February of 1926, Woodson introduced the annual celebration of Negro History Week--purposely choosing the second week of February for the annual event to commemorate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

I recall my own first experience with Negro History Week as a young boy when I had to make a presentation on the great 19th-century African American abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass. That experience created an interest and appreciation for African American history that has remained with me since that February in the early 1960s.

Over the last few years, there has been much discussion about Black History Month outliving its usefulness. Some have criticized the selection of February to commemorate Black history by saying it is the shortest month of the calendar year. Others have claimed that America should not short-change African American contributions by limiting discussion and recognition of Black achievements to only one month during the year. …

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