I can’t say that I know much about “black history”, in fact I can’t say I know much about “white history, yellow history, red history or brown history.” But now that it is black history month I decided to educate myself a little about this month of remembrance.
I turned to Wikipedia for a quick synopsis:
The purpose of Black History month is to commemorate important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.
The remembrance was founded in 1926 by United States historian Carter G. Woodson as “Negro History Week”. Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African Americans: former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass
So, what is interesting to note is that while the remembrance is primary one for African Americans it is also observed in Canada and the United Kingdom.
What is also interesting was that Carter G. Woodson choose February because of Lincoln’s birthday when Lincoln actually was in favor of slavery in the United States. It is a common misconception that Lincoln freed the slaves and that the civil war was fought over slavery. In fact, the war was fought over secession and Lincoln, in his first inaugural address said,
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
Certainly not the words of a man bent on freeing slaves.
I think that black history month shouldn’t be used to revise history. With all of the great black men and women who fought for freedom, and equality during the African-American civil rights movement people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks we cannot forget that there are many blacks who aim to destroy freedom. No black history can white-wash over people like Louis Farakhan who called Hitler a “great man” and called Judaism a “gutter religion”, or the convicted criminal and racist Malcolm X who said that “black people were superior to white people and that the demise of the white race was imminent.”
Many celebrate black history month not just to remember the history of the African Diaspora but as a celebration of African history and culture. But, again any telling of history must include the evil with the good.
To this day slavery exists in Africa and even pre-dated the Atlantic slave trade. Tens of millions of Africans have died in just the past decade during wars in Africa. There are currently 15 African countries at war either with themselves or with others.
African history is replete with human rights abuses, tortures, genocide, cruelty, despotism. Remember Idi Amin? And Robert Mugabe today has taken the somewhat prosperous nation of Zimbabwe and turned it into one of the poorest countries on the planet with his socialist and racist policies.
I could you leave you with the usual quotes about history like this one from
E. L. Doctorow: “What most people think of as history is its end product, myth.”
George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
But the one I identify with the most is from
History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”
(Originally aired on Just Right show #138 February 11th, 2010. To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)