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ISSUE: Celebrating the stories of a people
OUR VIEW: Black history enlightens us all
Some people wonder why Black History Month is necessary. They ask if it is fair to separate one race for special observance. Black America’s history is, after all, American history, too.
Critics say such observances focus too much attention on the most notable figures while glossing over the countless black Americans who have struggled, toiled and defended their lives and homes in relative obscurity.
With roots dating back to 1926, the observance was said to have been set for February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of black Americans, and an even better opportunity to learn about the tremendous contributions of others.
Most Americans can name many notable black Americans: George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Carl Brashear, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. DuBois, among others. But how many know about Percy Lavon Julian, inventor of cortisone, or Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr. who not only invented the traffic signal, but a protective respiratory garment credited with saving lives?
Other critics say black history is American History, and they are correct in that assertion. But traditionally, that history has been lacking in what have been considered the definitive texts of our time, texts that traditionally ignored parts of stories related to people of color.
Unfortunately, lack of historical knowledge among today’s public, and students in particular, is not limited to black history. But honoring and observing Black History Month does not diminish any other group’s history. Does celebrating Ginger Rogers diminish Fred Astaire?
Rogers and Astaire each are fascinating, but without each other, there’s considerably less appeal. Similarly, Black History Month should not be considered as promoting a “parallel” history, but a more complete history.
Hopefully, as a society, some day we will be sophisticated enough to recognize black history is American history. So go read about black Americans. You’ll be fascinated.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.