BY BRANDY FULTON
The decade-long debate of whether Black History Month is needed, continues. Thanks to 2017 starting off with U.S. President Donald Trump and all his craziness, this argument and the overall reason for this month will go unheard.
In 1924, Negro History and Literature Week was created. Inspired by a convention that was highlighting the progress that had been made since the abolition of slavery, Carter G. Woodson desired to promote the scientific study of black lives and history. February was chosen for this week to encompass the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two Americans who had great impact on black history. The week was later turned into a month in 1976, and was officially recognized by Canada’s House of Commons in 1995. By integrating black history curriculum in schools, the outreach to children and adults was significant, but Woodson desired a greater impact. He started asking people to extend their knowledge of black history instead of creating a new tradition.
“We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements,” Woodson said to an audience of Hampton Institute students.
However, that cannot be said of everyone’s feelings for this celebration. Eleven years ago, actor Morgan Freeman said in a 60 Minutes episode that he did not support Black History Month.
“I don’t want Black History Month,” he said. “Black history is American history.”
Freeman said the only reason there is no White History Month is because white people do not want their history regulated to just one month, and that they would probably take offence to it anyhow. This conversation with his co-host sparked a debate that arises every year just before February.
There are a number of other people who have the same views as Freeman. Stacey Dash, who is a Fox News personality, almost replicated Freeman’s speech, saying that Black Americans are just Americans and that is it. She also stated that if we wanted segregation, we got it, by placing a whole race’s history into the shortest month of the year.
Both Freeman and Dash were reprimanded for their outspokenness. People used a number of different social media platforms to ask the two celebrities why they hated their culture and history.
Freeman clarified that he wanted children to be taught American history and that included black history. However, he wanted it taught year-round, like it would be with European history, and not just a special month out of the year.
This reflects Woodson’s thoughts shortly before he died in 1950. He believed that the weekly celebrations would come to an end but he wanted the study of black history to continue on, hoping that one day it would be taught like a normal class, 365 days of the year.
And with every debate there is an opposing side. Rosemary Sadlier, a former president of the Ontario Black History Society, asked how we can have social justice if only one group’s achievements and contributions are known. She strongly supports Black History Month, saying that is how students are going to learn about the missing pieces of Canada’s history.
“If the contributions and achievements of African Canadians are not made known to all students, if the mere fact of the long-term presence of the black community is not recognized, how can we as a developed country truly affirm all our citizens?” Sadlier asked.
Both sides of the debate have the same desire in mind, to have black history taught in schools year-round. They both understand that 28 days is not enough. However, 28 days to some people is better than nothing, and they will take every chance they can get to continue to educate and inform.