Did you see yesterday’s (February 1) Google doodle? The doodle appropriately featured “The Father of Black History,” Carter G. Woodson, and, when clicked, provided links to the many articles and websites focused on Woodson.
If you missed it, here it is [image links to Google search on Woodson].
Woodson was concerned about the role of African Americans in history. He wrote of the history and hoped to “lift the veil of ignorance.” His work, The Miseducation of the Negro (1933), which critiques the American educational system for its failures to include accurate and deep attention to Black history, is still relevant, valued reading at many colleges and universities. He founded the Association of Negro Life and History (now, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) and launched Black History Week which later expanded into Black History Month.
Every February, we face the same questions about why there is a need for Black History Month (BHM); we endure the same declarations that BHM is “racist,” or that it valorizes one “race” over another. It’s frustrating to hear these statements year after year after year; they unveil a myopic view of the USA and its peoples that rejects any well-reasoned response.
As many times as we’ve explained that American history, as typically taught, erases the full participation of nonwhites from the narratives, some people simply can’t/don’t/won’t get it. They continue to rant and rave that if “African Americans contributed, then they’d be in our history books.”
I no longer waste my energy.
If our schools offered comprehensive study and examination of American history–that included the contributions of all Americans–perhaps, there would be a reason for the question.
But they don’t.
Even with BHM, the same names are repeated with little attention to the broader work, contributions, struggles, and progress of African Americans.
Another point many people miss is that BHM is not a “national holiday for Blacks only.” It provides an opportunity for all Americans to educate themselves on the work of African Americans who have “made history” because of their contributions in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), medicine, music, literature, law, philosophy, dance, psychology, social justice, athletics, and so much more.
[I found the cartoon above on an IG page. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the original author. Forgive the misspelling of “y’all,” but please don’t miss the point].
Instead of writing for pages about why we still need Black History Month in the USA, I’ll leave you with a few links to articles that provide background information and that sufficiently make the point.
- Origins of Black History Month
- “How Carter G. Woodson, ‘the father of black history,’ is still teaching us” by Michael Cavna
- “Why We Still Need Black History Month” by Danielle Fuentes Morgan
- “Why we need Black History Month now more than ever” by Peniel Joseph
And for laughs–or a good cry–check out the brilliant and (necessarily?) irreverent satire of Aaron McGruder on Black History Month: Black History Month in “The Boondocks.”
Until next time…
10 thoughts on “Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month, and “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance””
I think Black History Month is needed more than ever. Just because OFFICIALLY there is no segregation anymore, that doesn’t mean that there is no discrimination or racism anymore.
And you know – it should be at least Black History Week all over Europe, too. Because we Europeans, too, are rather ignorant when it comes to the achievements of Non-Europeans. Oh, we KNOW that there (anywhere outside Europe) were civilizations and societies long before the Greeks and Romans. But the only ones we acknowledge might be the Egyptians. And that is it. My History classes began with Classes about the Stone-Age – (that was late 70s of last century, no, not the Stone-Age, my school days in which I was taught history – though, near enough …), dealt with some glossary mentioning of Sumerians – and never, ever went to India, China or Japan, let alone dealt with the African societies. South and North America? Mentioned when Europeans arrived there. And mentioned the crimes of the arrivals rather en passant …
It is a sad fact that for centuries the “winners” wrote the history books. And that Europeans and their North American (or even Australian) descendants see themselves as the centre of Earth – therefore focussing on their own history. But history did not start with developed societies in Europe. This world is so much older – even Homo Sapiens is so much older … It is needed more than ever that we are reminded that history is not just the time after which we here in Europe finally learnt to write it down.
I certainly see the necessity of Black History Month.
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Please don’t get me started. When I was in college, I took American History and English History. It was amusing to hear the same story–the American Revolution–told from the two different perspectives. I learned a lot about “history” from that minor observation. Your comment is a blog post in itself. It would be interesting to see blog posts on the impact of people of Africa and the African Diaspora on Europe. Thank you for seeing the necessity of Black History Month.
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Funnily enough – in an article in the Guardian I read that the thousands of years -old remains of a human being they found on the British Islands had blue eyes – and dark skin.
Already in 2014 they found such remains in Spain. Europe wasn’t at first a region where white skinned people lived – it was a region were people with darker skin emigrated to – and over time those with lighter skin had an evolutionary advantage in the dark winters. (Lighter skin meant more Vitamin D, meant then better immune system in this very specific climate). That’s why it is now predominantly white. But our roots are dark skinned. And if we follow the “logic” of racial categories, since we all have “a drop of black” in us … you draw the conclusions … Black history in Europe did NOT start with slaves brought over from Africa, not with “show-examples” in 19th century zoos (shocking, but sadly true), not with victims – black history in Europe started when mankind came to Europe. But go and try to convince those white supremacists …
Sorry for the length of my last comment – I just wanted to explain why I saw the necessity for Black History Month even in a now majorly “white” skinned population.
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No apology necessary. I so appreciate your commentary and THANKS for the link.
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Black History month, Women’s History month, Native Americans month, and on and on. I have said before, I am just appalled, saddened, angry, when I think of all the history I was not taught in school. All the history that is still not being taught. I get that there is only so much time, and it is impossible to cover everything. But there should at least be some mention, no?
Love that you share so much, and allow us to learn and grow. Have a super week Chandra!!
Reblogged this on Pics and Posts and commented:
Five years ago….still relevant. Add the material linked in Google to your reading list this month: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/black-history-and-culture. Happy Black HIstory Month!
Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you for this timeless (and timeless) reminder.
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