Dr. Carter G. Woodson saw that black education was riddled with voids. Woodson is the Father of Black History Month and the second African American to receive his PhD from Harvard University. By 1915, he took upon himself the task of filling those voids of knowledge that black people lacked about themselves.
In 1926, Woodson established an annual week-long celebration of black history, then known as Negro History Week. The week he chose in February fell on the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, men whom we have learned to associate with the ending of slavery. In 1976, this week of celebrating black history was expanded to the entire month of February. We celebrate black history month in February because Woodson, son of a former slave, chose that month, not because it is the shortest month in the year.
In celebrating Black History Month, we should remember that there is still serious work to be done. We should consider that school textbooks and programs only briefly mention blacks in American history or barely mention Africans in world history. In Fact, according to Dr. John Henrik Clarke, through racism, African history-that is, most of world history, has been systematically edited out of our education. This is precisely the reason Woodson established Negro History Week. In 1926, this was a radical idea. The curriculum of education for black people had been left in the hands of whites where it still remains today.
Do you not see anything wrong with this?
In this country, both American and East Indians, Jews, Asians, Arabs, Hispanics, and Caucasians, groups that each still speak in their own languages, for the most part, do not leave the education of their children entirely in the hands of another culture; yet, African Americans whose ancestors were forbidden an education, forbidden to speak their African languages, taught that their African culture was evil until they learned to believe the lie, who have had and still have the most negative images that permeate American society, within the last thirty or so years, have made the conscious decision to leave, almost in its entirety, the history of their culture and their American experiences in the hands of those who have the most to gain by destroying it-proponents of Western/American educational systems.
Now, I ask you, today, whose fought is it that too many of our children not only don’t know their history, but don’t want to know it?
In 1933, Dr. Woodson saw this problem coming 100 miles down the road. He foreshadowed it, laid it out, and told us what to do to prevent it. Just read his The Mis-education of the Negro. He said, “The only question which concerns us here is whether these “educated” persons (Negroes) are actually equipped to face the ordeal before them or unconsciously contribute to their own undoing by perpetuating the regime of the oppressor.”
Woodson knew that the power of a people lies in their understanding of who they are and their ability to pass this knowledge down to their young. In other words, your history is your network of roots that plant you firmly on your foundation so that you can stand strong and tall with your head held high. No one can knock you off of such a foundation.
Without studying your history, who will remember your mother, your grandfather, and the rest of your ancestors? Without valuing your history and passing down a tradition for studying it, who will remember you when you are gone? Perhaps the best reason to celebrate black history month is to celebrate how much you value yourself.
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