Simply put – because it’s American history.
Black history is American history, but for too long, the contributions of Black Americans have been neglected and ignored. Some would say the long march to freedom and equality begins with knowing our peoples’ origins, struggles, and achievements.
“We have a wonderful history behind us…and it’s going to inspire us to greater achievements.”- Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History and American Historian.
After being banned from attending American Historical Association conferences despite being a dues-paying member, Woodson believed that the white-dominated historical profession had little interest in Black history. He saw African-American contributions “…overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”
Woodson realized he would have to create a separate institutional structure for the preservation of Black history, which today is the Journal of African American History.
Woodson’s devotion to showcasing the contributions of Black Americans bore fruit in 1926 when he launched Negro History Week in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This was later expanded into Black History Month.
When we study Carter G. Woodson, Charles Hamilton Houston, James Weldon Johnson, Julian Bond, Mary White Ovington, and Medgar and Myrlie Evers, it gives us an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the achievements that African Americans have accomplished in this country. In fact, Sioux City was home to Oscar Micheaux, the country’s first prominent Black filmmaker. Michaeux was influenced by the West 7th Street neighborhood and also founded the Micheaux Film & Book Company of Sioux City.
Black history is too rich and vast only to be honored for one month. As we continue to fight against structural racism and inequality, it is my hope that Black history will be studied as part of American history – all year long.
*To learn more about the persons named or more about Black history, the author recommends starting with the following websites:
Giants of Racial Justice: https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-9695/
National Education Association: https://www.nea.org/
By Ike Rayford