Black History month is upon us. We are likely to see more movies on the television starring black actors than in other months. Surely, Sidney Poitier will show up multiple times. We will see ads with taglines extolling black excellence. And, certainly, there will be some exquisitely written and performed documentaries that only the truly dedicated will watch.
The 1960’s Civil Rights Movement will be lauded. Reminding us that history is more palatable than current events. And when the month is over — we will, again, place many of the lessons of Black History Month back on the shelf so they can collect dust until the next year.
And yet I believe in Black History Month. Indeed, it was created by my great, grand-uncle, Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Back then, it was Negro History week. Woodson, called the Father of Black History, created the week to help people recognize that black people had a history worth knowing and worth remembering.
At its beginning, the week was not presented as a holiday, but instead was a recognition that our story was untold. We black people, along with the rest of the nation’s populous, were told “The Negro” had no history and no cultures. In essence, suggesting we had no worth. Lies were passed along as a way of keeping a people oppressed.
Carter knew better. The second black man to get a Ph.D. from Harvard University, Carter gave the nation information they didn’t want to hear but needed to know. He forced America to recognize that knowing the truth of history is knowing the truth of ourselves.
When we face that truth, whether it is good or ill, individuals and nations will always grow stronger and smarter.