The past eight months, in many ways, have served as a new reckoning for our nation in dealing with race. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the anger and riots that followed, were a stark reminder to the nation that, more than 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, we still have a long way to go.
That’s why all of us should use this month — Black History Month — as a time to not only learn more about our friends and neighbors but also to gain a better understanding of the issues that Black Americans face.
Black History Month 2021 reflects on the tapestry presented by Black families and the role they have played in the African American experience.
“The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” is the theme that has been selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the founders of Black History Month. It’s a multifaceted topic, and one that looks at the many layers of the family, including the reverence that has been shown, the stereotypes that have been perpetuated and the parts that have been vilified from the time of slavery to the present.
Black History Month was established by Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, born in 1875 and the son of former slaves, himself a former coal miner and educator, understood a proper education was important in seeking to make the most out of one’s freedom.
He earned his high school diploma at an all-Black high school in Huntington, West Virginia and then earned advanced degrees at the University of Chicago and Harvard University. Woodson was the second Black man to earn a doctorate degree at Harvard. He later founded what is known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
In 1926, Woodson established what today has become known as Black History Month after recognizing a lack of information on the accomplishments of Blacks in American history. February was chosen because of the correlation with the birthdays of abolitionist author Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.
Woodson knew and understood that all men were created equal, and following college set out on a life mission to teach truth to that point.
Again, let us all use this month to learn more about our neighbors. That could go a long way to a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face and how, working together, we can tackle those issues.
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