Black History Month and its origins

Justin Banks—Guest Writer

Colleges across the nation have set aside time to bring attention to black history month by initiating a number of activities on campus. Many schools have stated that this is a time to both observe and to acknowledge the history of African Americans.

The acknowledgement of Black History Month is not only beneficial because of its impact on the African American community, but it can also be used as a tool to bridge the gap between racial differences.

Many of the African American students at Dordt are hopeful that the recognition of black history month might match or one day come close to that of the hundreds of other schools across the country.

“I take pride in this month because it embraces my culture, and it acknowledges the endeavors that both my culture and people have overcome,” says Everett Hill Jr., senior at Dordt College. “It is a time of learning and a time of fellowship that cannot be fit into one month; nevertheless, I am appreciative of this time that has been allocated to my people.”

In the summer of 1915, Carter G. Woodson traveled to Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of emancipation carried out by the state of Illinois. During this time, thousands of African Americans traveled the country to visit places that highlighted the progression of the black race since slavery.

Woodson believed that by publishing a compilation of scientific history about the achievements of both Africans and people of African descent that race relations might be mended, and more importantly the image of the African American race might be changed for the better.

He, along with many other African American academics, believed that the publication of The Journal of Negro History should be used to highlight the achievements of the black race.

In 1924, the Negro History and Literature Week—later renamed as the Negro Achievement Week—was birthed out of a request that Woodson made in 1920 to his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. He asked black civic organizations to advertise the achievements of black researches.

Woodson sent out a press release which officially announced Negro History Week to be in February of 1926. It is believed that this month was selected to celebrate Black History because of two influential figures whose birthdates fall in the month: Abraham Lincoln, born on the 12th , and Frederick Douglas’s on the 14th.

For reasons beyond this, since the assassination of President Lincoln, the African American community has celebrated his birthday—creating a tradition. Similarly, since the late 1890’s, Douglas’s birthday was already a largely celebrated day

The consensus amongst the section of the student body that has grown to appreciate this month does not believe that the school is obligated to give acknowledgment to this month; rather, these students are hopeful that an appreciation for this month might one day be shared with other students on campus.

By giving recognition to Black History Month at a college where black students are the minority, students like Everett Hill Jr. hope that change might one day permeate both the campus and the community.

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