Black History Month Isn't Working
... but, it's not Black History Month's fault
|the b|e note||Feb 7|
When historian Carter G. Woodson established in 1926 what was, at the time, dubbed “Negro History Week,” it wasn’t for the purpose of celebration.
Woodson and others hoped that such a week, which eventually morphed into a full month by 1976, would serve as a full-curriculum way for society not to repeat and continue the nation’s racist inclinations, rather to “take the study of the Negro seriously.”
Indeed, by formalizing Black history into a real field of academic study, Woodson thought, Black people as a whole would be taken seriously, respected as equals and permitted to exist in the United States and throughout the world unencumbered by white supremacy.
“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples,” wrote Woodson in his classic work The Mis-Education of the Negro.
Through Negro History Week, then Month, then Black History Month, Woodson set out to aggressively reverse and correct that. Specifically set in February because of the converging birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Black History Month was designed as a revolutionary resistance and liberation weapon towards that goal.
Here we are 94 years later, and it’s not clear if that specific mission was successful. There are growing signs that America happily observes or celebrates Black History Month as a matter of course and that’s all fine. Yet, that observance is as dismissive as it is insincere and obligatory.
Most Americans are not even certain if they want a “Black History Month” at all, according to a 2018 YouGov poll, and if it’s just better to “integrate” it into the general curriculum. More significantly, there are signs the larger public has no understanding of key struggles in that history ….