Hearing individuals remark that black people were given the shortest month of the year to celebrate Black History Month is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard for me. The comment suggests that once again black people have been given the short end of the proverbial stick by the powers that be.
In actuality, Black History Month, which began as Negro History Week, was originated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. The second African American to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University (Dr. W. E. B. DuBois was the first), Dr. Woodson chose the second week in February to honor the births of two individuals who played significant roles in shaping black history–Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and 14th of February, respectively.
“In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association [for the Study on Negro Life and History (ASNLH)] used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to black history. Since the mid-1970s, every American president, Democrat and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme” (http://www.asalh.org/blackhistorymonthorigins.html).
Recently, a video of actor Morgan Freeman (the Electric Company, Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus) stating he believes Black History Month is “ridiculous” has been making its way around various social media networks. To see the video click here. During the 60 Minutes interview, Morgan explains his opposition to the cultural celebration: “You’re going to relegate my history to a month? . . . I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s goal in starting Negro History Week eighty-six years ago was for black history to be recognized as being crucial to and inseparable from American history and his hope was that eventually Negro History Week would outlive its usefulness. The question which begs to be answered is if that time has come.
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