Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, was one of the first African-Americans to receive a doctorate from Harvard. He dedicated his life to promoting African-American history, because he realized that, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
February is the month when African-Americans’ contributions to our nation and world move from obscurity to the forefront. For some, Black History Month is a rude awakening to the fact that African-Americans have been an integral part of America’s history.
Even in times of great peril, the patriotism of African-Americans is unparalleled. In fact, African-Americans have been involved in the defense of the United States dating back to colonial times.
The reality of black history is that it is America’s history. We need to incorporate black history into everyday life. America should have only one history … a history that is inclusive of all. Eddie Chambers, professor of art history at the University of Texas in Austin said, “One cannot understand or fully grasp the history of the United States without an understanding and appreciation of the African-American history embedded within it. We make a chronic mistake if we ever think that African-American history is of primary relevance only to African-American people. African-American history is important for all Americans.”
The ignorance and lack of acknowledgment of the vast contributions of African-Americans in making this country great has caused divisiveness and heightened racism. Many African-Americans feel a tremendous amount of pressure to demonstrate their worth as contributing members of society even though African-Americans contributed to the success of the United States since the birth of this nation. Young African-Americans, who are desperate for role models, often imitate less positive images because the stories of those African-Americans are left untold.
We can keep America great and strong by valuing the contributions and history of African-Americans, and all Americans.
James T. McLawhorn Jr.
President, Columbia Urban League