By David M. Johnson
Another February, another Black History Month, where we celebrate achievements African Americans have made throughout U.S. history.
Initially just one week, Negro History Week, which began in 1926, was allocated to educating black and white Americans of such accomplishments. Maybe someone figured there wasn’t much to talk about back then. In the 1960s, it was expanded to Black History Month. But is it still relevant?
When I opened my laptop to begin writing this article, my position was leaning more towards Black History Month no longer necessary or relevant. Haven’t we reached the summit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently spoke of in his “I Have A Dream” speech? After all, we recently elected our first black president.
Today’s celebrations appear more like an opportunity for corporations to exploit black achievements and sell goods. A parade of special programming on television and exclusive stories on “the black experience” in newspapers, magazines and online, all sponsored by corporate America to tap into the black market.
America touts itself as a “melting pot,” but in reality it’s really more of a tossed salad. Each ingredient – African American, Mexican American, Asian American, European American, etc. must be regarded with equal importance to make the best salad. So why not teach black history alongside American history?
For example, in Australia, students are taught two historical contexts: ancient history and modern history. Aboriginal history and the recent history of Australia as a penal colony are woven together within the pages of their textbooks.
As I continue putting finger to keyboard, I realized Black History Month is still greatly needed and very much relevant. The rich history and great accomplishments of my fore bearers must never be forgotten.
As we extol accomplishments by the Kobe Bryants, Halle Barrys, and Barry Bonds of the world, let’s not forget Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the Master’s golf tournament, Janet Emerson Bashen , the first African American female to hold a patent for a software invention and Edmond Berger, who invented the spark plug.
Every month should be Black History Month, not relegated to the shortest month of the year. Until African American history is considered with and taught as American history, Black History Month should keep on keepin’ on.