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Is Black History Month Still Relevant?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Tony E. Hooks
  • 6th Maintenance Squadron
The burning question that stirs the greatest amount of debate in our country in February is whether or not Black History Month is still needed or relevant?

The purpose of this article is to inform all Americans the celebration of African American culture cannot be captured in 28 days. It's an ongoing, ever evolving, journey that continues throughout our lives. Black History is intertwined with American History; it's impossible to dispute that African Americans helped build this great country we all live and fight for each day we put on the uniform.

Two important facts come to mind when most people think of Black History; first and foremost, of course, is slavery. The second is the civil rights movement.

How much was lost during that dark period of slavery in our history? The stories never told; ideas stolen because property was not allowed to openly express ideas without retribution or sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice. So, yes we should not only teach our children black history but move forward and find a way to move it into the mainstream. Make Black History part of American History and teach it and read about it year round. It's an effort to tell the full history of all Black Americans and not just those widely known.

There has to be a way to tell the full story about the wonderful culture that make people stop for a minute and think about where we are today. The contributions of the civil rights movement are widely known.

However, this is where school systems fall short and require immediate attention. Let's take a look at the focus of American History and the aspect and angle from which it's taught. There is very little mention of the American Indian, Asians or Latinos. They too were building and living in the country. Read your child's history book and find the first legal protest by blacks that occurred in what was then called New Netherlands (New York) 1644. You will, however, find entire chapters on slavery. Again, consider the angle from how history books are written.

School systems will continue to promote black history until they are forced to understand that history will not be separated regardless of race or personal views. Officially Black History Week began in 1972 and four years later it would be known as Black History Month. Ask your co-worker to name five prominent African Americans in Black History and watch the response. Black History is very much relevant and required. Some would like to take this argument to extreme levels and state it is now a wedge between blacks and the rest of the nation.

We should never forget the sacrifices made by some very brave men, women and children who endured Jim Crowe2 laws and bigotry. African Americans know these sacrifices have given opportunities only dreamed of so few years ago. Does anyone reading this article know what the 14th Amendment did; and why later it gave birth to Jim Crowe laws? Go back to your desk and read the dangerous relationship born from the union.

Black History Month is relevant to our past and more importantly to the future of all children in this country. One day, when the racial divisions in our everyday lives have been eliminated, it will simply be called American history and the phrase "Black History," will no longer be needed. For now it's still relevant and very much needed.