The Case for Black History Month: Why We Need to Teach Black History

As a Junior in high school, a few of the students and I in my Video Production class produced a segment for Black History Month where we asked students, teachers, and administrators how they felt about the existence of Black History Month. All the of the response were in favor of the month and some even included other important months to be widely celebrated like Woman’s History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. One of my friends brought up the great point that Black History Month was still needed but that Black History should be celebrated all year. This project started with a clip of Morgan Freeman on 60 Minutes saying that he did not want a Black History Month. This debate was new to me at the time and a little surprising. During elementary school, I used to look forward to Black History Month every year  because I knew that at least one time a year I would have an entire month dedicated to learning about people who looked just like me and their contributions to our society. In first grade this included only coloring pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks but as I grew I learned about other greats such as Billie Holiday and Jackie Robinson and began to understand the ugliness of racism and how it is crucial to telling the stories of African Americans and black people in the diaspora. However, as I continued to grow Black History Month became less celebrated by some of my teachers mainly once I got to school for reasons I never understood. Maybe it became irrelevant with the pressure to teach to the test to improve the school’s standing in comparison to other schools; therefore, since Black History was not integrated into the standard Math and English portions of the standardized test it was seen irrelevant outside of certain classes.

     Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I did this project for my Video Production class that I began to critically think about the value of Black History Month. I reached the conclusion that I loved the month and what it represents. Even though all my teachers did not center their lessons around it, the month was still important in understanding Black History and its importance to American and World History. Now as a soon to be college graduate with a degree in Pan-African Studies I still agree with my initial feeling that Black History Month is necessary. Celebrating Black History Month does not negate or remove the fact that Black History should be told year round but this month allows for a large scale communal effort to tell our stories whether good or bad. On today, Feb 5, 2014 Trayvon Martin would have turned 19 and yesterday Feb 4th marked the 15 year anniversary of the shooting of Amadou Diallo. The fact of the matter is Black History needs to remind people of America’s past problems with racism both institutionalized and overt. I won’t go as far to say that history repeats itself but I feel that a lack of understanding about America’s racial past will allow people to easily conclude that Trayvon was a “Thug” or looked suspicious instead of seeing how racism has become so institutionalized as well as see the the parallels between Trayvon’s death and Emmett Till’s in 1955. People like Emmett, Amadou, and Trayvon are  included into the larger narrative of the black experience because of how they resonate and remind us that the lives of black people are still disregarded and criminalized.Their deaths allow us to see that if there was ever a time to drive home the importance of Black History Month, that time is now due to how. The illusion of a post-racial America would advocate for the elimination of Black History Month because the ideology claims such events that highlight America’s racial past divide the country. I argue the opposite, that Black History Month is crucial because it has the power to unite us, if you do not understand and appreciate the history of the most marginalized population, you cannot understand and appreciate the larger history of a society. Lastly, if nothing else matters, having Black History Month sets aside the time to stress the contributions of black people around the world allows a little black boy or girl like myself 15 years ago to realize that they have the potential to change the world for the greater good. 


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