February is Black History Month. It is important to continually celebrate the many different cultures and backgrounds that have contributed to this great nation, February is a time to acknowledge the many great things African Americans have done to enrich our country.
Americans have annually recognized these contributions since 1926. However, this annual tradition originally began as “Negro History Week.” At the time this tradition began, the roles African Americans played in our nation’s history was not well documented or studied. At the time, history books had little information about African American history, and what little information was present primarily focused on the inferior social stigmas assigned to African Americans during these early periods.
The origination of this annual tradition can be attributed to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Virginia native, born in 1875. Woodson, a son to former slaves, graduated high school at age 22 and continued his pursuit of higher education, earning a PhD from Harvard University in 1912.
Woodson was un-happy with the lack of documentation and misrepresentation of African American history. As quoted by Woodson, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” In light of this, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, in efforts to promote and preserve African American history and culture.
To bring recognition and appreciation to the African American community, Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926, which later evolved into Black History Month in 1976. Woodson chose the second week in February, between the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, who lent much to the African American civil rights movement.
Black History Month is a time to celebrate our nation’s African American roots, culture, and heritage.
“Black History Month to us represents many things. It brings us together with the black communities of the Salt Lake Valley, but also elicits our desire to come closer to one another and plan out group related activities,” says Mack Danhounsrou, President of SLCC club Black Student Union, ” Black History Month is, in my opinion, some type of recognition attributed to the Africans and African Americans to thank them for being part of the cultural landscape of this country.”
As Danhounsrou suggests, Black History Month is a time to be thankful. African Americans have made huge contributions to the arts, literature, and music of this country. Technology has been improved and scientific discoveries made. Frederick McKinley Jones invented the air conditioner. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first-ever successful open-heart surgery.
African Americans have fought in every war involving the United States. African Americans fought not just for their freedom, but also for the freedom of all American’s, past and present.
African Americans have changed the social, political, and economic landscape of this country.
Perhaps one of their greatest contributions to society and civic life is the hope that their strength, courage, and perseverance have given to other oppressed groups, such as Native Americans, migrant workers, woman, and the disabled.
African Americans have made countless contributions to our history and culture, far too many to do justice in this short article. In honor of Black History Month, examine, seek out, and research these contributions. Examine the past that made our country what it is today. As goes the famous quote by Edmund Burke, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
For information on Black History Month activities hosted by the Black Student Union, or to join, contact BSU President Mack Danhounsrou at firstname.lastname@example.org.