It's almost February and I could not let this month end without recognizing the importance of Black History Month and why we should continue to celebrate it. In case you didn't know, Black History Week was founded by noted Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson. In 1925, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and Culture (ASNLC), an organization devoted to raising awareness of the contributions of African Americans to world civilization. The first Black History Week was observed during the second week of February in 1926, covering the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, (No, we were not assigned February because it was the shortest month!)
The observance was met with overwhelming response by schools and churches. Around the same time, James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosamond wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" for a school program, and as former students continued to come back and revive the song and it eventually became the Negro National Anthem. It is still sung at Black History events today.
Fifty years later, schools and universities had broadened the celebration so that it could not be contained in seven days. So in 1976, it was expanded to Black History Month and recognized by the federal government. Many schools and churches use this month as a time to hold commemorative programs, promote speaking and writing contests for youth, disseminate important Black facts, and highlight African Americans from all walks of life, from entertainments, to scientists and authors. 1976 was also the Bicentennial, the celebration of America's 200th birthday as a nation. The Smithsonian Institute celebrated the contributions of hundreds of nationalities that year with festivals, plays, and touring artists of every medium.
Now, there are some celebrities and professors who feel that Black history should be celebrated every day, not confined to one month of the year, like popular DJ Tom Joyner. There are others, like actor Morgan Freeman, who feel that Black history no longer needs to be addressed separately from other races, since Black History is American history. Whatever your position or your race, take some time to examine the contributions of people who were long ignored in history books and classrooms. You will find some fascinating stories from real life.
Here are ten books I recommend as authorities on Black history:
1. The Destruction of Black Civilization, by Chancellor Williams
2. Before the Mayflower, Lerone Bennett,
3. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
4. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois
5. From Slavery to Freedom, John Hope Franklin
6. The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X with Alex Haley
8. Roots, the Saga of an American Family, Alex Haley
9. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, Aldon Morris
10.The African American Century, Henry Louis Gates & Cornell West
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