Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What's The Occasion?: Black History Month

Black History Month - that month-long celebration of the culture and achievements of people of African descent - is celebrated in both Canada and the United States in February*. To my mind it always seemed passive-aggressive of white North America to give the descendants of those brought here by force an entire month to celebrate their considerable contributions to the dominant culture, only to give them the shortest month in which to do it...

PhotobucketIt turns out that way of thinking is little more than received pissiness, which is so often the case with me. Carter G. Woodson (shown, at left) originally chose the second week in February - which embraced the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln - for Black History Week in 1926; any sinister motives one might ascribe to denying Black History that extra two or three days it might have during any other month says far more about the paranoia of the accuser than it does about the event itself or the motives of its progenitor.

Black History Month was first celebrated in 1976, after fifty years in which Black History Week grew steadily in popularity, among both blacks and whites; whereas in its first year most whites would probably not have known who to celebrate, apart from George Washington Carver, by the Seventies enough consciousness had been raised during the Civil Rights Movement alone to add a few more names to the roster - chief among them Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and Malcolm X. Thirty subsequent years have not seen any abatement of scholarship into Black History but indeed an exponential increase, both by black and white scholars.

Woodson's hope was always that one day his own event would become obsolete; once blacks had been given their rightful place in the history from which they had been excluded, he reasoned, the event would no longer be of need. The Pop Culture Institute whole-heartedly supports this ideal, and strives today as ever to write the people's history by believing in one race - the human race - and in the unity which is possible if we can only learn to embrace our shared humanity.

*The UK celebrates its own Black History Month in October.

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Pamela said...

Your post was very informative... the public should understand the how and why of the significance of the beginning of the celebration of Black History Month....thanks