Black History Month began as a “Negro History Week” in 1926. Scholar and historian Carter G. Woodson chose the second week in February, as it contained the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, to bring awareness to African Americans’ role in shaping U.S. history. President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance in 1976.
This annual celebration is a time of pride, but what does Black History Month mean today? Some black leaders share their thoughts:
“Black History Month will always mean honoring the prominent figures of our past, but we put them on the back burner … and rightfully so in 2019. Instead, we put present-day heroes at the forefront. In this time of division and turmoil, we chose to encourage, promote and reveal the black men and women who are becoming new examples of #blackexcellence. Without social media we wouldn’t have such easy, immense access to one another and would have to rely on yet another textbook tale of Martin Luther King Jr. or George Washington Carver to get us through the month. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to see how we’re moving the culture forward in real time.”
— Christine Michel Carter, parenting author, speaker and consultant
“Black History Month is so important to me because it’s a time dedicated to shining a light on black culture and achievements, which are too often ignored during the rest of the year. Some people turn their noses up at Black History Month, but until our society acknowledges the contributions of all cultures, this focused time to highlight our achievements and inspire and educate our youth is essential.”
— Crystal Swain-Bates, children’s author and diversity advocate
“Along with being a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our ancestors, Black History Month is a reminder of our duty to be great. It reminds us of the struggles we’ve overcome, and highlights struggles we still have to conquer. It’s a yearly remembrance of the strength, wisdom and courage it took to go from being the least valued in society to being the heads of companies, industries and even the nation itself. Black History Month confirms and reminds me that I can do anything.”
— Sean Hampton, producer at Bentkey Ventures
“There is an African proverb that says, ‘Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.’ In today’s political and societal climate, rife with lies of omission, collusion, intimidation and ‘alternative facts,’ celebrating and sharing our stories, our struggles and our accomplishments has never been more important. I would love to see more active efforts to provide interactive and expansive programming for children during the month that goes beyond the narratives of Martin, Malcolm and Rosa.”
— Michelle Person, founder of Just Like Me Books and elementary school principal in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District
“As multiracial child I constantly faced adversity growing up. Being raised in a small rural city with my Caucasian family in a predominantly Caucasian community, I looked different compared to everyone else. When I went to visit my African American family in the urban city, I acted different compared to everyone else. This adversity shaped me into the resilient leader I am today. Now as a multiracial female entrepreneur, Black History Month to me is the celebration and appreciate the many generations of African Americans that faced adversity before me to pave the way for me!”
— Ashley Baier, owner and founder of Recovery Athletics
“Black History Month is a necessity; it counteracts the 11 months in the year that our history/legacy is diminished, tainted, manipulated and/or erased altogether.”
— Nadia Stanley, television producer and author of “I Know Why You’re Single, Sis!”
“Without the black fearless leaders who made opportunities for African Americans possible, I would not be where I am today. Our history reminds me to fight for what I believe in and to work even harder than others would. Most importantly, black history reminds me to always stick with love.”
— Baylie Robinson, author of “Life Lessons College Failed to Teach You”
“To me, Black History Month represents an opportunity for all, not just African Americans or black Americans, to learn about and appreciate the numerous contributions of African Americans in America. Specifically, it’s a time to talk about African Americans within a context that doesn’t always involve the topics of slavery, the slave trade or such. African Americans have contributed to every aspect of American culture, and although often not credited for those influences throughout most of the year, Black History Month is one small but necessary step toward righting that disservice and lack of recognition.”
— Ayanna Julien, managing editor at EffortlessInsurance.com
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