Black history: more than a month

Register Staff, Reporter

Each February, African Americans are awarded a month to call their very own. Although the shortest month of the whole year, Black History Month is not only important, but necessary.

Established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a black historian and author, Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” according to CNN.

Fifty years later, it grew to encompass an entire month and was recognized nationally.

When children are in preschool, kindergarten and first grade, they are taught the basics of Black History Month: it is a month meant to honor the history of black people; the children discuss African American figures, the topic is brought up once more through the month and then is often cast aside. This stops becoming an issue at middle school, junior high and high school level, because it is usually never discussed.

Ramay Junior High eighth grade science teacher Henry Childress is working to change that.

“Because I am a science teacher, I tend to only use science references,” Childress said. “We learn about famous black scientists and inventors like George Washington Carver, Louis Latimer, Elijah McCoy and Garrett A. Morgan. I tend to go overboard sometimes by transforming into the scientist. The students listen to a short presentation and then they can ask questions of the famous scientist.”

Discussing prominent black figures that heavily contributed to the scientific community lends a hand into further acknowledging other black figures that are just as important as the civil rights leaders schools tend to glorify.

“In school, we don’t really emphasize Black History Month at all. It’s just another month of the year,” said senior Mya Doss. “We might go through a few days of talking about MLK or Rosa Parks or something like that, but it’s not something that we talk about every day.”

Using only civil rights leaders as talking points to get students to listen is dangerous; when teachers are discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. and the peaceful protests he took part in, they are leaving out Malcolm X, whose leftist ideas propelled the Nation of Islam to gain hundreds of thousands of followers, including Cassius Clay, who became Muhammad Ali. When teachers discuss Dr. King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, they are erasing the Black Panther Party, whose bravery, ideals and intelligence helped them rebel in the face of racism and police brutality.

Often, when teachers discuss Black History Month, they erase the nasty bits– the parts nobody wants to hear. They do not discuss the severe beating and sadistic torture used to keep slaves in line; they do not discuss burning bodies and houses or how deep the fear of the KKK ran; they do not discuss the fact that white people treated lynchings like a picnic; they do not discuss the police brutality, vicious dogs and high pressure water hoses civil rights protesters endured; they do not discuss the current issues of police brutality or microagressions blacks face socially and in the workplace; they do not discuss the 500 years of oppression stacked upon black people’s backs; they do not discuss the missing pieces that need to be understood to have a full grasp on what it means to be black.

Black History Month is truly about that: accepting and learning from the past, looking forward to the future, honoring those who, yes, were prominent leaders, but acknowledging those who endured the hardest times so as to give their children a better future.

Black History Month is a reminder that the people who have experienced so much oppression are more than their past shackles and even their current handcuffs– they are inventors, leaders, entrepreneurs, janitors, activists, students, coaches, teachers, cashiers, authors, dancers, politicians, musicians, trend-setters. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. They are changers, leaders, history-makers.

The month of February is a short one, but is full of the vibrant and unique history of African Americans, and there is no telling how far they will go.

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