Black History Month: A Commemoration
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Black History Month is an important time of reflection that reminds society of the advancements made by those who could have been otherwise forgotten. History, having placed black people in the status of slaves and not much else, left an impression that they could not be examples of valor or intellectual thought.
The original idea, Negro History Week, came about to change that. It took place in February, falling between Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on the twelfth of the month, and Frederick Douglass’ birthday on the fourteenth. Recognition of the man who had freed the slaves and a man who used his newfound freedom as an opportunity to become one of the greatest orators of his time seemed fitting, as no one could doubt the intellectual potential the black citizen held if their chains were first removed.
The growth of black potential inspired the expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month, in 1969, which was first celebrated in 1970, and recognized by the United States government in 1976. Black people have been freed from slavery, gained citizenship, and the right to vote without persecution.
This, however, does not always remind people of what the race has done to progress society.
Black History Month is important because it highlights the successes of those that would have been considered less than human at one point in time during American history. It is a constant reminder that this country, while being founded on the concept of escaping from persecution, did decide to turn right around and begin persecuting.
It is a reminder to forbid this aspect of history to repeat itself. Those who were deemed property instead of individual members of society were rendered unable to prove themselves as equals without being given the chance. Black History Month is a commemorating time, displaying what can happen when people are given that chance.
Without this month stressing the importance of black advancement, Martin Luther King Jr. may have been forgotten. Each of his peaceful protests bringing society strides closer to acceptance during the Civil Rights movement could have faded into vague memories students might forget on their final exams.
The efforts of Rosa Parks may have had their significance nullified without the appropriate attention provided by the month. People may not have appreciated that they can use the same establishments and facilities as those of another race, including buses, water fountains, and bathrooms. Parks allowed people to have their comfort be just as important as any others, and eventually, their drinking water just as clean, and their right to urine excretion just as important as that of everyone else.
With today’s racial climate increasing in tension, it becomes important to realize that the country has struggled to maintain race relations, as it has only been just over 50 years since racial equality for basic rights became mandatory.
Societal pressure has escalated with the questionable deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner. This has drawn a line in the sand between people justifying the deaths, and people defending the deceased. The battle could even have manifested itself in some way in the presidential election, causing further divide. The potential of these black lives is what Black History Month is here to celebrate. The prevention of black success had been common in history for years. History repeating itself is precisely what the celebration of black history is here to impede.
There are some who disagree with Black History month. Morgan Freeman believes that black history shouldn’t need its own month, but should be considered a part of all history. This seems like a great idea conceptually, and is seemingly very true. However, most currently studied American history took place before black people were allowed to play much of a part in it.
Comparatively, the history of the black person is set back a few centuries, and with the successes of whites being celebrated every time a seventh grader takes a test, it may be fair to consider Black History Month a celebration, rather than a delegation. Both arguments are logically sound, and it seems that the integration of races in public should also include the integration of their histories year-round. However, until there is more of a balance in the number of achievements, there isn’t too much of an issue with celebrating the underdog.
Barack Obama is among those who have achieved modern day greatness. The first African American president, he went a full eight years without evoking controversy unlike his predecessors over the past two presidencies. With the instant access to the lives of others from the increase of social media, this is alarmingly more impressive that he out lasted those who came before him. He is definitely a crowning achievement in what Black History Month set out to achieve.
Oprah Winfrey is an additional example of modern day greatness. She has been able to captivate the attention of millions for decades at a time. She is considered the “queen of all media,” and is the wealthiest African American person. Having overcome poverty to the fullest extent, she has become an icon and a staple in black history.
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has also made many achievements, making her an example of modern day greatness. She has musically enthralled all of America, and many parts of the world. She has elevated the content of her music from dealing with what would sell to the public to tackling racial issues in the country.
These three influential black people are tipping the scales of historical relevance, exemplifying what Black History Month is representative of.