Public Forum: Is it Really Black History? Or, is it AMERICA’S HISTORY?

by Sharon Hale Jenkins

I came to know what is now known as Black History Month in my last year of high school in 1972. Its’ origins can be traced back to the pioneering work of Dr. Cater G. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago. His efforts to gain more recognition for the contributions people of color had made to American history led to the establishment of Negro History Week during the 1920’s.

By the 1970’s, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month. Since the mid-1970’s, every American president (Democratic and Republican) has issued proclamations endorsing the concept of Black History Month. While attending college in the 1970’s during the “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” period, I had many conflicting feelings about why the “Black” experience was (from my viewpoint) taught ‘separately’ from “American” history.

Let’s fast forward to today. Why are Black Americans continuing to accept the fact that their story (which is the very foundation of ALL of America’s stories), remains separate in the telling of this country’s history? In the future, the telling of America’s history should start with renaming Black History Month as AMERICA’S HISTORY: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE.

Afterthoughts:

Because I am not a supporter of Black History Month, it is not unusual when I forget February is the month for Celebration. While TV viewing I am surprised and often impressed with the consistent number the African American actors being portrayed in Fortune 500 commercials. The Hallmark card commercial with the family cooking and eating together, having family card game time and the very touching family TV time when the wife hands her husband a card and they lean in to kiss when the children express their “ill.”

It is then I realize, this is all for Black History Month……..

There are the many movies with significant meaningful stories of African Americans being shown just in honor of Black History Month. Why not show these movies period?

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