By: Armond McCray
Historically, Black History Month initially began as “Negro History Week” in 1926. Its founder, Carter G. Woodson, was disheartened after he discovered how underrepresented African Americans were in the shaping of American history. In 1915, he founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. This organization promoted and celebrated the accomplishments of African Americans by launching “Negro History Week” during the second week in February. Reason being, both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln have birthdays that fall during this monumental week. “Negro History Week” didn’t become “Black History Month” until 1976, when President Gerald Ford declared it as a national observance. “In celebrating Black History Month, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”- President Ford.
Although Black History month has been embraced by many for over 40 years, there has recently been some light shed on the controversy of this celebration. Advocates of Black History month argue that this is a significant month vital to recognizing the achievements of African Americans in an otherwise European dominated history. Others believe that African American achievements should be integrated and celebrated throughout the entire year. The problem that experts are seeing is that the teaching materials produced for February’s celebration of black history are often confined to the most well-known African Americans (Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver and Rosa Parks). But some even argue that a month of learning about black history is “too long”.
In recent years, several African American celebrities have been publicly opposing the observance of this celebration. During an interview with the Oscar-winning actor, Morgan Freeman willingly told “60 Minutes” co-host Mike Wallace, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Stacey Dash, a famous African American actress declared that she would also like to have Black History Month eliminated. She labeled it as “a vestige of segregation”.
It will be interesting to see what will become of Black History month in the future. But for now, Carter G. Woodson’s efforts to support African American pride and ensure consciousness of African American achievements will be observed and celebrated during the entire month of February.