Is Black History Month Relevant or Obsolete?
By Funke Oyelade
There is a debate about whether Black History Month is still relevant in light of the racial progress that has been made in America in the past 40 years. American citizens elected the nation’s first black president in 2008, however those questioning the celebration’s significance may have forgotten why the month was created.
Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, documented the history of African American’s because he wanted to prove to the world that African’s in America had history just like every other race.
In his book The Mis-education of the Negro, Woodson explained how imperative it is for Africans in America to know their history. However, from elementary to high school the textbooks teach American children one thing: Black people were slaves.
In high school, I took World History believing I would learn a great deal about other cultures other than the Europeans, but I was sorely mistaken. In fact, the textbook used for the class had one chapter on ancient African cultures, two chapters on the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Middle Passage and the rest was about a few Asian dynasties and European history.
The equivalent amount of time invested in teaching European history is not given to African Americans and Native Americans. If so, we would not have the need for months to be dedicated to the various races because it would be taught as part of the American history curriculum.
Without Black History Month, people would not know about the trials our ancestors went through for the right to be treated as human, a right that many of us take for granted. We would never know about historical black figures and if we did, we would only know about Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, but not others.
It should not have taken me until college to learn that: Harriet Tubman was a spy in the Civil War; Asa Philip Randolph, the driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement, wrote Martin Luther King’s “I have A Dream” speech, or about Barbara Johns a sixteen-year old girl that lead a strike against Jim Crow in Farmville, Virginia.
I find it funny that no one questions the lack of Black accomplishments mentioned in history textbooks used in public schools. I feel that Black History Month is relevant because it tells a side of America often ignored, glanced over, or dumbed down.