I’ve been tapped to moderate a panel discussion at the University of Alabama this Monday, February 24 on the whole concept of African American History or African American Heritage Month. And, I m just wondering what compelling arguments people still make in 2014 for continuing this annual observance.
As Wikipedia reminds us, this whole thing started 88 YEARS AGO– with the celebration of Negro History Week, which was the second week of February designed to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. We have Historian Carter G. Woodson to thank for that. As a nation’s we’ve been celebrating the entire month of February as Black History month for 38 years since our nation’s bicentennial in 1976.
But, most people have come around to the understanding that the history of African Americans shouldn’t be relegated to the shortage month of the year– 28 days.
Here are my SIX REASONS to do away with Black History Month:
- We can’t decide on whether it’s heritage or history that we’re celebrating. (Some years we call African American Heritage Month)
- Having just a one-month observance de-emphasizes the history of black folks the other 11 months of the year.
- Most students need to be encouraged to see black history as American history.
- Black History Month tends to focus on the same small or limited cast of characters.
- We’re in a “post-racial” society– where we’ve moved beyond talking about black people as a distinct sub-population.
- The greatest event in black history– the election of President Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012– both happened in November, not February
I’m certain those from the organization that created Negro History Week, The Association of African American Life and History (ASALH) are going to disagree with those who might say do away with it.
President Obama still believes there’s a reason to celebrate it.
“Our nation joins you in celebrating African American history,” Obama said in a statement released last month in advance of the 88th Annual Black History Month Luncheon, which was held today in our nation’s capital. “Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. This month we pay special tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, at the heart of this journey.”
On Monday evening, the Capstone Association of Black Journalists at the University of Alabama is assembling a group of journalists and scholars to tackle this issue through a mass media lens. We’ll look at how the mass media have presented the observance even as we ask questions about its relevance to WBMA-TV reporter Larry Miller, UA English Professor Cassie Smith, and UA Telecommunication and Film Professor Kristin Warner. The event begins at 7 p.m. in Reese Phifer Hall.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is Black History Month or Negro History Month STILL needed in 2014? If so, WHY, if not, why not?