Why Black History Month Is Important

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February is almost over, which means Black History Month is drawing to a close. As with anything, cable news outlets cover it in a variety of ways.

In case you’re unaware of the history of Black History Month, here’s a short run-down:

The beginnings of Black History Month in the United States date back to summer of 1915, when "an alumnus of the University of Chicago [named] Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois,” according to an article written by Howard University history professor, Daryl Michael Scott.


In 1926 Woodson sent out a press release to announce the new cultural week that would celebrate achievements of the past. He chose the second week of February because it fell on both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays.

"Negro History Week” as it was called, received a positive response, according to professor Scott. "It prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday,” he wrote.


Due to the progress of the civil rights struggle throughout the early 1960s, thanks to college students at Kent State, the week-long celebration officially became a month-long celebration in 1970.

But for some, paying tribute and honoring the black community feels too much like giving them preferential treatment (and that's not fair, right?).


Recently, during a cultural commentary monologue, MSNBC's The Cycle co-host, Touré took to task all those who argue that we should also celebrate "white history," which he associated with a fish not noticing water. Meaning, we're so inundated with "white culture" and "white history" that we don't notice it because we can't even see it.

He added an excerpt from a blog post by Chauncey Devega, creator and editor of race and socio-political blog, We Are Respectable Negroes.


Celebrating white history month is like "being a kid with all the toys in the world, and going to a birthday party and getting mad because another kid got a toy.”


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On Monday, the producers of Jeopardy tipped their hat to Black History Month during the College Championship semifinal game with a category called "African-American History." Contestants Laurie, Tucker and Whitney knew more about Kiwi Fauna than black history. *side eye*


Further substantiating the need for a month that celebrates black history, Charlamagne ‘Tha God,’ host of ‘Charlamagne and Friends’ on MTV2 recently quizzed everyday people on their black history knowledge for a segment on his show. Specifically, he held photographs of American historical civil rights figures like Malcolm X and Rosa Parks as well as prominent black modern-day figures like former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and director/producer/actor, Tyler Perry.


Shockingly, no one – regardless of their racial background – recognized Rosa Parks or Malcolm X and they weren’t too sure about Condoleezza Rice either. But, Tyler Perry…yeah, they knew him.


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Charlamagne & Friends, MTV2

As Touré argued, white history month would likely involve focusing on the achievements white people have made, but we’re already inundated with that information. We’ve highlighted the achievements of white America. From statues, to the naming of universities and city streets, "White History Month" happens every day, we just don’t make mention of it in those words publicly.


A cultural month for a minority group is different. It's about acknowledging triumph over adversity. Namely, the adversity that has benefited white Americans and white people for centuries.

One blogger has suggested a way to honor white history month, but it’s doubtful that that’s what white folks are looking for.


So, why hate on BHM? It’s not the only cultural month that exists to celebrate the achievements of a marginalized groups in the U.S. There are many more:

- Irish-American Heritage Month: March
- Women’s History Month: March
- Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month: May
- Jewish-American Heritage Month: May
- Gay and Lesbian Pride Month: June
- National Hispanic Heritage Month: Sep 15-Oct 15
- Filipino American Heritage Month: October
- LGBT History Month: October
- Native American Heritage Month: November
- Puerto Rican Heritage Month: November


And we have calendar holidays (some observed with a day off from school or work, others not) dedicated to the celebration of other religions and cultures, too.

Instead of questioning the need or validity for a cultural or heritage month for a minority group, why not appreciate it. Celebrating the continuing contributions of the diverse cultures in this country that highlight trump over institutionalized inequality, should be something we look forward to, not question.

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