Why is there a Black History Month?

I’m already struggling with how to proceed with the lettering here. Should all three words in that title phrase be capitalized here, or just the letter “B”?  When I was a kid, it used to be called Negro History Week. That was when we were Negroes or colored, and to call us “Black” was fighting words.  So for consistency sake, why not African American History month, or Month?

That’s probably coming sooner than later. And why just a month?

Don’t our historical feats, talents, contributions, struggles and all deserve more than a month?

I would say so, and would seek at least two months, or even three. I’m told that the month of February was chosen because the birth dates of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were on the 12th and 14th respectively.

The history and contributions of African descendants in this nation since its inception to this day have been absolutely monumental, not just in our struggle, but moreover in our disproportionate contribution to that which has actually made America great, and continues to do so.

But, back to what we are called, and the need to define the group or perhaps to no longer even play that name game. As of now, if one is White and born in Egypt, White and born in Southern Rhodesia, or even a person of Chinese descent born in Capetown, South Africa and subsequently becomes a United States citizen, that person would be by definition an African American. But that doesn’t fit. That term has been given to people who have a descendant or some descendants from sub-Sahara Africa.

But I submit that none of those three persons passes the test using the common wording. That’s why for anyone born in the United States who has Black ancestors who came from the continent of Africa via the Middle Passage of the 16th to 19th centuries, and whose ancestors came involuntarily in bondage, the term Afro American might be much more appropriate. It traces the lineage with the struggle. And understand that that term, Afro American, existed and was used and written in the early 20th century when referring to us.

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But for some unknown reason it disappeared just like colored and Negro. And I find the words “people of color” meaningless or totally confusing. Think about why.

But back to the point.

Who started Black History Month, and why?

I recently saw where someone asked why do we only celebrate African American history month and not Asian American, Latino American, Pacific Island American, or any of the many other ethnic groups in this country?

Well my gut response was that none of those groups were brought to this nation in bondage. They came here on purpose. Nor has any other contributed as much to the nation as a whole, in so many areas that we tend to forget, such as years of free labor and production, art, music, and such. But most of all, most of us are and were overtly conspicuous in skin color. Dark brown or black. And to top it all off, we were the only group that was not considered to be human but were by law, property. And to add salt to the wound, when called by a name that was not derogatory, we were American Negroes. Notice the switch of the noun and adjective, to add to the difference from all of the others, except for the American Indian instead of Native American or Original American, also overtly conspicuous by color with the noun and adjective reversed, for the eye and brain to differentiate from all other groups.

But the contributions of the enslaved Africans far out-strip all others combined, when looking at what Black Americans have done behind the scenes, as well as in obvious areas of transportation and construction.

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Carter G. Woodson, an esteemed Afro American educator of the late 19th century, saw the growing need for our recognition after conscious suppression, and in 1926 started Negro History Week, which grew into Black History Week, and evolved to Black History Month after the surge of Black pride by millions of a new generation throughout the nation in the 1970s.  So in 1976, Congress made it official.

PBS does such a commendable job in its programming about the month that even I was backing away from feeling that there was a bit too much about month. Like the Christmas push starting after Labor Day in recent years, even I was numbing to the needed recognition of the Black cause and culture. Maybe the BLM summer push had something to do with that.

The Smithsonian African American History Museum in Washington, D.C. is a fascinating experience that all Americans should be exposed to.

One must return at least two or three times to even begin to scratch the surface of the hidden history of America’s Black culture, and accomplishments, which could reveal the reason why there is a month set aside. Trust me, February is not enough.

But the museum does push The New York Times’ 1619 narrative that slavery and bondage in America, and not freedom for the individual, is the defining fact of American history. I submit that it is not. Because freedom is an inside job.

I recently found the response of Cheryl Wills, a Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications graduate, author and television anchor at Spectrum News NY1 most enlightening in a recent interview with Jewél Jackson, who is a current junior newspaper and online journalism major at the Newhouse School.

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