Embracing the Depth and Breadth of Black Contributions Year-Round

Black History is American History

I remember being in school as a kid and wondering why we were only taught about historical Black figures during February. I then remember being confused because we only talked about well-known names like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. There was the occasional mention of Frederick Douglass or George Washington Carver but I never really learned about any other Black Americans in school. It was the same thing every year. I remember there being no real emphasis on how Black Americans contributed to the history of the United States. Black History Month felt like a speed bump — over just as quickly as it started and pretty uneventful.

The older I got, the more I realized that there was way more to the story than what we were being taught in school. Although their stories were stunted and limited to a month, the contributions of Black Americans were right between the lines of every historical account in our American History books. I soon realized that if it weren’t for Black History Month, there would be nothing taught in schools about these contributors to history.

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926 and took place the second week in February. It has since expanded into a month of celebrating the lives and achievements of Black Americans. First introduced by Harvard-trained historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland, this annual celebration was meant to recognize the contributions of African Americans which would otherwise go unnoticed. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, there has been no official expansion of Black History Month. Dr. Woodson’s goal was not to stop at just teaching Black History one week or month out of a year, but to expand and have it included in America’s historical curriculum year-round. Thankfully, there are many who share this viewpoint and continue to work to realize Dr. Woodson’s dream.

Associate Professor of History Dr. Bobby J. Donaldson of the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences is one who continues to build on Dr. Woodson’s ideas. “In my work as a teacher and in my role as a leader with the Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters project and the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, I strongly believe that the recovery, preservation, and dissemination of African American history is a needed and never-ending mission. The history is too deep and expansive to be confined to a given moment on a calendar. My motto: History, Everyday, All Year.”

Until Dr. Woodson’s dream is realized and Black History is officially recognized and included in American History, we can continue to educate ourselves and those around us and celebrate Black History’s impact and influence on our daily lives.

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To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights
What was the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921?
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Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem
We Are Your Children Too: Black Students, White Supremacists, and the Battle for American’s Schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia
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More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
And We Rise: The Civil Rights Movement in Poems
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