So are we going to recognize February as Black History Month or as African American History Month from here on out in response to President Trump unofficially “officially” changing its name? Some of you are even pondering exactly what the big deal is with the name change to begin with…well I’ll tell you.
For those of you who don’t know, Black History Month was started by an African American historian by the name of Carter G. Woodson back in 1926. Black History Month was originally a week long celebration called “Negro History Week” which was to be celebrated during the second week of February because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) & Frederick Douglass (February 14). Why these two people? Simple. Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the slaves being freed & Frederick Douglass was the founder of the civil rights movement in America. Negro History Week eventually became Black History Month in 1970 due to the efforts of a group of students at Kent State University known as Black United Students. In 1976, Black History Month was officially recognized by the US government.
The number one issue off the top that black people have with President Trump referring to Black History Month as simply African American History Month is that it presents another case of a white person dictating to black people how black people are to identify or celebrate something uniquely black. That’s the major issue which has been prevalent in America for so damn long now in every facet of society that it’s always viewed as offensive. If black people allow white people to dictate the name of the celebration for honoring black people, one day we will wake up to discover that Black History Month or African American History Month has been renamed to All History Matters Month.
The second issue with the name of African American History Month is that this name change runs the risk of excluding black people who were not Americans from being learned about, yet these people contributed to American society/culture in a significant way. Case in point: Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican who had a strong impact on black society (to this very day) in how black people viewed themselves along with how black people decided to fight for change. His impact on American culture was so powerful that he has at least 3 memorials in his name just here in America: a park bearing his name along with a public library in New York City named after him; he also has a cultural center named in his honor at the University of Northern Colorado. So my point is this, if Black History Month was officially changed to African American History Month, would we not celebrate the history of Marcus Garvey because he wasn’t an American?
The name “Black History Month” is much more appropriate being that the history of black people being celebrated during the month of February is not just exclusive to African Americans only. This history encompasses the entire African diaspora. Prominent figures like Nelson Mandela have had a significant impact on America as well, so are we to ignore him simply because he’s not an American? History’s impact on America as far as black people are concerned is not just relegated to that of African Americans. That’s an absurd way to view the world. I mean, when discussing just history (white history) how often is Europe brought into the mix from England all the way back to the Roman Empire, but yet black folks are supposed to just focus purely on black Americans? Get real.
Anyways, some of you reading this are probably still wondering what’s the big deal, it’s just a name change…so what. Well, back in 2015 in the state of Texas there were some history books being passed out to fifth graders where they claimed that African slaves were immigrants who VOLUNTARILY decided to come to America looking for a better life….but hey, it’s just a name change, so what’s the big deal right? Funny how black history has a way of rewriting itself when white society decides to interject itself into the discussion.
PS: For those of you who do not know, Black History Month is also celebrated in Canada & the UK.