Is Black History Month Still Relevant? 2/16/2016

Lakesha Mathis


Muhammad, Askia. 2011. Mural near Woodson’s former home in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Black History Month born from “Negro History Week”, founded by Carter G. Woodson and observed every February since 1976, and was originally created to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans.  Today, however, questions of this celebration’s relevance seem to be on the minds of many Americans. Those celebrated during Black History month definitely have a place in history. It would be hard to imagine our lives today without the many contributions of yet the question still remains, is it relevant today. In 1926 the separate celebration and acknowledgement of the contributions of Black Americans sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was definitely relevant as there was little if any acknowledgement elsewhere in society of the achievements of Blacks.

While it’s relevance may have changed, Black history month is as relevant today as it was during its inception. It’s everyone’s history. Black history tells the story of how our world came to be what it is today. Black history is filled with stories of success against the odds. Black History provides a backdrop for the limitless possibilities of the underdog.

It’s a story of forgiveness, humbleness and perseverance. Forgiving the past and making way for the present and future. It doesn’t mean forgetting. Instead it tells the story of moving on despite, and in spite of our current condition. Humbleness in understanding the greatness of a people, the fear of that greatness and forgiving the oppressors.  Perseverance in the ability to work hard and prosper in the present awareness that the future though hopefully is not always clear.

Black History Month, once thought of as an opportunity to remember the achievements of Black Americans, is today, a remembrance of how people hold the power to change society. The stories of Black Americans provide road maps for navigating through every area of life. The story of a young George Washington Carver who applied to and was denied admission to several colleges went on become a farmer before being accepted to Simpson College in Iowa. Carver’s determination not only landed him in college but coupled with the work he’d done on his homestead maintaining a conservatory for plants and flowers Carver went on to become the first black student to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College earning a Bachelors Degree. He also held a Professorship at Iowa State in which he was the first black faculty member, prior to heading the Agriculture Department of the Tuskegee Institute.

Alston, Charles Henry. 1907-1977, Artist. “One of America’s great scientists.” U.S. WWII poster. 1943  (NARA record: 3569253) – U.S. Archives and Records Administration.

There is a message in George Washington Carver’s story for every person. That message is never give up. Even when the odds seem so heavily stacked against you. So while Black History Month may no longer be relevant to some as a celebration for the achievements of Black Americans, it remains relevant in the celebration of the achievements of all people. Black history is everyone’s history. The lessons of perseverance, forgiveness and humbleness present in Black History are forever relevant to all history.


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