Black History Month

Black History MonthThe issue I have with Black History Month, no context is involved.

A few years ago I posted a question to some co-workers, out of 9,  I had 4 people tell me, all with HS degrees and decent jobs, they had no idea who Dred Scott was. So you are looking at FOURTY-EIGHT Black History Months that have gone by and utterly failed to mention one of the most important people walking around at that time. I got similar numbers for several other people that are so important to American History.

There is an issue there. There should be NO possible way to teach American History or get to the Civil war without looking at his impact- yet apparently there is. You skip over so much, yet push so much history of a people to JUST cover them in one month- if that, and normally hitting the same dozen or so people time and time again.

You know who Eli Whitney was? nice, any idea why he was important? Any idea on what it did to the Irish population up North and how that changed race relations in certain cities? How it shifted populations of slaves?

Or was it simply- He invented the gin, next person on the flash card?

blackhistorymonthMy Problem with Black History Month is there is no CONTEXT being taught. Who cares about Rosa Parks when all you know is she wouldn’t get off the bus? Why was the bus so important? What is the big deal about buses in the South in the 1960s? Why Montgomery? Why not Atlanta or Dallas or Charlotte?  Do people looking up to Rosa Parks know anything about the Alabama Bus riders? Why MLK got involved in the first place? The planning that went on before she even got on the bus?

You don’t learn about men like Crispus Attucks- a FREE Black man walking around Boston – Protesting England right alongside Slave Holders- and DYING beside them, and then not allowed his place until DECADES Later. Do people not know that Slavery was legal in the entire United States and there was more of an argument about where to fit Slaves into the Constitution as there was on how to elect the President?

You should learn that when you talk about the Revolution Not wait for a slow day in FEBRUARY.

Its AMERICAN History. You don’t wait for Cherokee week to talk about Trail of Tears, or Chinese Day to talk about the Rail Roads. You have to learn OUR history, Warts and All, in CONTEXT. How can you claim that Black History Month is OK, and other than glossing over it in the beginning, ignoring it until the Civil War, then ignoring it until the 1960s? Then February comes along and pretend that’s enough?

Black-History-Month3-1024x638Its not enough, You can handle a people’s history a month and say “that’s enough” That smacks of SEPARATE BUT EQUAL. Black History belongs with AMERICAN HISTORY. Not Separate, not its own chapter, section or MONTH. You get to Jamestown, you get everything, you get to the Revolution, you get the discussion, you get to the Civil War, you get WHY Lincoln only freed the Slaves in certain areas, and not everywhere. Nothing on Bleeding Kansas?

I understand we have trouble with Race Relations, I also know that as long as we don’t combine our history, we are going to keep our future separate as well. Thousands died, White, Black, Male and Female to end Slavery in this country, they should all be known and recognized. The only way to have children understand what was wrong in our past, and move past it, is to learn from it.

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About David Snipes 1399 Articles
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  1. Dave, as we used to say in the 60s: “Right On!”

    One of the reasons I chose to study mathematics rather than history was that history programs were reductionist in approach and not holistic. The focus was on events and not on relationships among and between events. I still maintain my interest in history as an amateur and frequently find myself at odds with historians who tend to compartmentalize events.

    For example, there is much to understanding violent revolution by understanding communication technology which spread the word both of the need to revolt and coordinated it. The American revolution, for example, can be attributed in large part to the broadsheet and the “circular letter.” The collapse of the Soviet Union was due in part to the fax machine. And the “Arab Spring” was coordinated in large part by the cell phone.

  2. My only gripe with this excellent article is that I willing to bet that 80% (and I think I’m being generous) of the people you ask will have no idea what Trail of Tears is or much else about any of the other Indian tribes in America… the Nez Perce, Paiute, Sioux, etc… nor, much more about the Chinese people who worked on the railroad… bet they’ll think all they did was wash clothes in San Francisco.

  3. Also my point.
    In most classes, the Indians vanish after Thanksgiving, and don’t show up until Custer.

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