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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/20/09

Black History Month Is Necessary

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Black History Month started as Negro History Week in the 1920's, but was not seriously observed. In an attempt to change the ignorance and distorted views people had about black history.  In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson organized lectures, exhibitions, meetings, and symposia. He hoped to get black history taken more seriously. Dr Woodson designated the second week of February Black History Week.


The campaign was successful, and eventually Black History Week was extended to the entire month.  Dr, Woodson strongly believed that in order for African Americans to be successful in their future, they needed to know that it was also their contributions that helped to build this nation. The month of February was chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, President Abraham Lincoln, and Langston Hughes.


White History Month is not needed because the contributions of whites are already acknowledged by society. Black History Month is meant to remedy this inequity of representation.


This year Black History Month will have a broader impact on the nation in general and more specifically in the Black community. This year, while celebrating Black History Month, Black Americans will have good reason to feel proud, walk with their heads high, their shoulders erect, and a new pep in their steps because a black man had been elected to the highest office in the United States.


Black History Month is different this year; the celebration will take place against the backdrop of unprecedented change in the nation's political leadership. On January the 20th Barack Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States, the first black man elected to that office. Shortly after being elected President Obama named Washington lawyer Eric Holder as the nation's first black attorney-general. And last week the Republican National Committee made history by electing Michael Steele, a social conservative, as its first African American chairperson.


In light of these and other political advancements by African Americans; the question being asked, is Black History Month still needed?


Black History Month is much more than a means to elevate African Americans self-esteem. A commonly held belief is that Black History Month is not necessary because black people have made no contributions to civilization and therefore have no history to celebrate. This is the result of the attitude that blacks are "primitive" and "intellectually inferior" to whites. The facts are, however, people are just ignorant of the real contributions blacks have made. Black History has been absent in schools, and when this happens the myth of black people's inferiority is perpetuated in the minds of blacks and whites alike. It's common for an individual to complete K-1 through a doctoral program and learn nothing about Black Americans contributions to civilization.


The late senator of NY, Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, in his essay on Black Families, that black people had no history. That statement is obvious false; everything and everyone has a history. It's interesting that an intelligent and powerful Unites States Senator would make such a statement. When you stop and think about it traditional historians seldom recognize black people African roots or their American history.


There is a legend called "A Summer Legend" goes like this:


"What became of the Black People of Sumer?"

the traveler asked the old man, "for ancient records

show that the people of Sumer were Black. What

happened to them?" "Ah," the old man sighed.

"They lost their history, so they died."


I will direct your attention to a time in American's history known as the era of Reconstruction from 1863 to 1877. Reconstruction was a period of unprecedented political turmoil, conflicts and far reaching changes in the nature of American government. And on the national level, new laws and constitutional amendments altered for all time the federal system and the meaning of citizenship. In the South, a politically mobilized black community joined with white political allies to bring the Republican Party to power.


In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War brought to America "a new birth of freedom." The Civil War began the nation's effort to come to term with the destruction of slavery and define the meaning of freedom. Reconstruction ushered in a new political reality for many African Americans who were elected to high political offices for the first time.

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William(Bill)Smith, Ph.D. an author, psychotherapist,consultant and personal coach. My practice focuses on online counseling, phone and face-to-face session with survivors of personal trauma,childhood abuse, relationship concerns, and individual (more...)
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