Black History Month 2023 is a chance to consider how African Americans have resisted oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, organized racial massacres and police killings.
“Black Resistance” 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, which runs today through Feb. 28. It’s a multi-layered topic, and one that allows for study and discussion on many levels because, the association writes, Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom and justice for all.
That includes the use of sit-ins, walkouts and strikes; organizing insurrections against those who enslaved Blacks; the development of media outlets, including an important one in the Pittsburgh Courier; the establishment of cultural centers, libraries and social clubs; the establishment by Black professionals of hospitals, nursing schools and clinics where Blacks could receive quality medical treatment; the formation of businesses and labor unions; the establishment of school systems and the expansion of Historically Black Colleges and Universities; the use of music and sports to show solidarity; and an increasing involvement in politics.
It’s a lot of ground to cover but, as the academy writes, it’s important to examine the history of how Black Americans have worked to establish safe places where Black life can be sustained, fortified and respected.
Black History Month was established by Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, who was born in 1875 as the son of former slaves, was a former coal miner and educator. Woodson understood that a proper education was important in seeking to make the most out of one’s freedom. He earned his high school diploma in an all-Black high school in Huntington, W.Va., and advanced degrees at the University of Chicago.
Woodson was the second African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard, before he established the association in 1915 and began “Negro History Week” in 1926 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.
Taught the theories of “Black inferiority” the same as white students when he earned his degrees, Woodson understood those teachings were false, and knew his mission was to teach truth.
It’s knowledge that is available to all during Black History Month, and it presents an opportunity to ponder contributions in all walks of life, to be educated, to learn and to appreciate.
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