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Black History Isn’t Just for February

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Raymond Strawn III

    It is Black History Month. Before writing this article, I never understood why Black History Month was in February, the shortest month of the year. I felt it was disrespectful. Once I learned its origins, it became clear to me as to why. But I still wondered, is it disrespectful to have it on the shortest month of the year? Aren’t there other months that could represent Black History Month? Or is it fine to leave it as it is? Or maybe get rid of it altogether as Morgan Freeman once said. What I do know is, it is not up to me to say when Black History Month should be.

    In September 1915, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. That group is known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1926, that group sponsored a national Negro History week on the second week of February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglas’s birthdays. By 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in February. Ever since then, every President would endorse a specific theme for Black History Month. In 2018, that theme was “African Americans in Times of War.”

    Expanding from National Negro History Week to Black History Month in February makes sense. But once again, is there a better month to designate Black History Month? It was originally set on the second week of February because of the birthday of Lincoln and Douglas. But how about having Black History Month in January, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.? Or maybe we should have Black History Month in August, the month Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

    Both these months have 31 days in it. Even the U.K. has Black History Month on a month with 31 days (October). Some may argue that October has Halloween, but February has Valentine’s Day in it. Maybe the number of days in the month doesn’t matter at all. Having a month where we can educate and spread awareness about African Americans and their history is really all that matters.

    According to Morgan Freeman, we should get rid of Black History Month. In 2005, Morgan Freeman conducted an interview with 60 Minutes and said, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.” Freeman explained that there is not a “white history month” because white people are celebrated every day; therefore, they don’t need a month. Carter Woodson also hoped one day there would no longer be a need for Black History month because black history and American history would be fused into one. Whether you agree with Freeman or not, he does bring up some interesting points.

    What is the “right” thing to do about Black History Month? Should it end, following Freeman’s suggestion? Should we follow the U.K. and move Black History Month to a longer month? Or should we leave it as it is? Clearly, with tradition backing it, we most likely will not move Black History Month. But is February the ideal month for Black History? I don’t know. But I would like to honor and show my respect towards African Americans during this month and every day afterward. In my opinion, we should never stop educating and spreading awareness about black history.

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