February is the month of love, but some forget the reason we should show affection.
Valentine’s Day is probably the day you’re thinking about, but I’m referring to Black History Month. The name is familiar, but due to the lack of education in schools today, many are deprived of the knowledge needed to truly understand the movement’s history and significance.
African Americans had to go through an unbounded amount of struggle and pain to be recognized as equals in America – an issue still ongoing today.
Black History Month began in 1915 when Carter G Woodson, a famous author and journalist from Virginia, saw the need to raise awareness of black history. He came together with a group of other passionate leaders who wanted to accomplish the same mission, and they formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. As Woodson published his literary works on black history, his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, assisted him in creating Negro Achievement Week in 1924.
Through many efforts to continue the week’s growth, Woodson encouraged everyone to think about it as more than a week, and eventually his dream came true. Around the time of his death, states began to expand the idea of Negro Achievement Week, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when the whole month was solidified.
Sad to say, but the issues Woodson wanted to resolve with Negro Achievement Week are still occurring today. Inside our schools, teachers only scratch the surface of African American history.
Growing up, students learn about Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass, but the number of African Americans that made an impact on the world we live in are countless. Is this sad? Yes. There’s more to Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and other popular civil rights activists.
In a majority-white country like the U.S., it’s easy to overlook the contribution so many diverse figures have made on this nation. This not only diminishes the culture of a community, but not acknowledging other communities’ strengths gives room for hate to sow. #BlackExcellence isn’t a means to divide the races, but to show what the history books leave out: There are black heroes and heroines, black geniuses and black people who have accomplished great feats for all of American society.
I challenge you to research names that are not brought up a lot, like Frederick Jones, who invented the first refrigerator that transported blood, food and medicine during WWII, and Charles Drew, the inventor of modern blood banks.
Other examples include Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who earned her M.D. in 1864 and practiced medicine, then published “Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts,” which is considered the first medical text written by an African-American woman.
Shortly after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman to be elected as a Congresswoman in 1968.
This February, I encourage everyone to read about the accomplishments of African Americans you don’t know about (or know little about) and encourage a friend or two to do the same.
At ETSU, there will be events to learn more about Black History Month. Attending a predominantly white institution gives everyone, including the minority themselves, a better reason to go out and research.
Learn about the groups that can be easily looked over. This not only gives you the opportunity to learn, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet people who may be interested and/or passionate about the subject too.
Roman Catholic Priest James Keller said it best: “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”