Black History Month and its significance

Staff Writer
The election of Barack Obama into the United States' Presidential Office was a monumentally historic event for African-Americans, Africans and the entire world.

 Some people don't like to pull the 'race card' when talking about Obama becoming president of the United States, but in my opinion, that is something that cannot be overlooked. Some people also minimise the significance of Obama, a person of colour, making it into the White House by saying that he is not 100 percent black, but is instead bi-racial. 'Whatever,' is what I say to that; it is noteworthy that part of Obama's family and ancestry can be traced to and still lives in Kenya. Anyone who is familiar with the painful history of slavery in the United States surely can appreciate how significant a historic event Obama's election as 44th president of the United States of America is. When the conscious people in the US celebrate Black History Month this year, they will look to this most recent accomplishment of an African- American with great pride and reflect on what a long journey it has been for African-Americans.

The month of February in the US is commemorated as Black History Month. During this month, African- Americans, who have helped change the world, are commemorated by people of all walks of life. Black History Month began as "Negro History Week," which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African- American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. It became a month-long celebration in 1976. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the US in the decades before the Civil War) and Abraham Lincoln (16th US president most remembered for his Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves free).

During Black History Month, universities offer special lectures; television broadcasters air black-history related programming, people gather at fairs organised to celebrate Black History Month and artists, mostly reggae, perform to crowds of the Afro-centric thinker.

One must not assume that the US stands still for Black History Month celebrations, because that is not so. But, if you are looking and are interested there are noticeable communications about Black History Month around the country.

So, why is Black History Month important and necessary? As a firm believer in the importance of history in the present, I offer that it is for that reason that Black History Month is important and necessary. In order to really have an appreciation for where one stands in the present, then one must look at the past.

"On the eve of the American Civil War (1861-1865) approximately four million enslaved African Americans lived in the southern region of the United States of America. The vast majority worked as plantation slaves in the production of cotton, sugar, tobacco, and rice. These enslaved people were the descendants of 12 to 13 million African forbearers ripped from their homes and forcibly transported to the Americas in a massive slave trade dating from the 1400s. Most

of these people, if they survived the brutal passages from Africa, ended up in the Caribbean (West Indies) or in South and Central America. Brazil alone imported around five million enslaved Africans. This forced migration is known today as the African Diaspora, and it is one of the greatest human tragedies in the history of the world," explains Dr Ronald L. F. Davis of California State University.

Slaves in the United States were eventually freed and then they began their long arduous journey towards freedom. For many years black people in the US were segregated from majority America, were treated and regarded as inferior and had very few (if any) civil rights. This struggle developed into what is known as the Civil Rights Movement. A website with information about African-American history details; "The Civil Rights Movement was at a peak from 1955-1965. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race, after nearly a decade of non-violent protests and marches, ranging from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the student-led sit-ins of the 1960s to the huge March on Washington in 1963." Names like Dr Martin Luther King, Malcom X and Rosa Parks (to name just a few African American civil rights heroes and heroines) are all names, which are synonymous with the African-American Civil Rights Movement.  It was a truly dynamic time - a time when black people were lifting themselves up from the rubble and claiming their rightful place in society - as equal to everyone else. Not only were they struggling for equality, but were also celebrating their heritage: it was during this time that the phrase "Black is Beautiful" was popularised.

Black History Month serves to commemorate those people who struggled for the freedom and equality now enjoyed by African-Americans. It also serves to shine a light on all the accomplishments made by Africans in the Diaspora and beyond. Not all people however are of this school of thought - Wikipedia shed some light on a different attitude towards Black History Month:" Black History Month sparks an annual debate about the continued usefulness and fairness of a designated month dedicated to the history of one race.

Critical opinion and editorial pieces have appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer and USA Today. Some African radical/nationalist groups, including the Nation of Islam, have criticised Black History Month. Some critics, including Morgan Freeman, contend that Black History Month is irrelevant because it has degenerated into a shallow ritual, and says that it serves to undermine the contention that black history is American history."

February is Black History month in the US and it will be celebrated, and very well so, I believe because as Marcus Garvey once said, "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."




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