Why is Black History Month Important?


(Photo: SEIU District 1199)

Sydney Brobbey

The month of February is a controversial month, not because of Valentine’s Day or Presidents’ Day — but because of it’s designation as Black History Month. Many people question why one race of people should get a whole month designated to themselves and why others do not. This article will explain the significance of Black History Month and why it is observed.

Before Black History Month evolved into a month reserved for the recognition of African-Americans, it was known as Negro History Week, a term coined by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson. The idea came to him in September of 1915, with the help of minister Jesse E. Moorland, when they founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization devoted to promoting the achievements and advancements of black Americans, as well as those of African descent. Such people who were likely to be recognized include Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth, and many more.

Today, ASNLH is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH). Sponsoring a national negro history week in 1926, ASNLH inspired local schools and communities to organize celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures centering around African-Americans who have made powerful contributions to the American life we know today. Years later, in 1976, President Gerald Ford would nationally recognize the month of February as Black History Month, in an effort to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Black History Month creates awareness, by educating people who are unfamiliar with the legacy of African-Americans in history. Many individuals have only learned about how African-Americans endured brutal racial discrimination and injustice since the sixteenth century. In order to shift society’s single-story perspective about African-Americans, it is only fair that the positive impacts they have made in our society be acknowledged in a month, when in all other months they are most likely forgotten or are seen as oppressed.

It is understandable that some would make the argument that one race of people should not get a whole month dedicated to them, because many other races should be recognized for their contributions as well. However, as stated above, in learning about the wretched past that African-Americans have endured, it is fair to say that they should not only be remembered for the oppression they endured, but also for the perseverance they displayed and their ability to positively impact their communities and for their everlasting strength they have passed on to their descendants.

Black History Month was not created to put African-Americans on a societal pedestal of honor, but rather to illustrate the progression and advancement of a people who, for a very long time, were never seen as humans, but merely as property. If not for Black History Month, many individuals would not know about the contributions African-Americans have made, despite their years of oppression. Black History Month was not intended to glorify African-Americans, but rather to uplift them and others, and teach society about their value.