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February is Black History Month

Date Posted: 2001-02-02

Since 1926 February has been designated as Black History month in North America. Its establishment was to redress commonly held views such as the Columbia University professor’s who stated that “over the past 5,000 years the history of black Africa is blank. The black African had no written language; no numerals; no calendar, or system of measurement. He did not devise a plough or wheel, nor did he domesticate an animal; he built nothing more complex than a mud hut or thatched stockade. The African had no external trade except in slaves of his own race, in ivory, and (on the West Coast) in palm oil and mahogany."

African American historian Carter Woodson , who is credited with founding Black History Month, was the first to put forward the idea of African history as a form of black cultural empowerment and emancipation.

In his view, the knowledge and dissemination of African history would, "besides building self-esteem among blacks, help eliminate prejudice among whites." He aimed both "to inculcate in the mind of the youth of African blood an appreciation of what their race has thought and felt and done" and to publicize the facts of the Black among whites, so that "the Negro may enjoy a larger share of the privileges of democracy as a result of the recognition of his worth."

In one speech he said "We have a wonderful history behind us. ... If you are unable to demonstrate to the world that you have this record, the world will say to you, 'You are not worthy to enjoy the blessings of democracy or anything else'. They will say to you, ‘who are you, anyway?’ Your ancestors have never controlled empires or kingdoms and most of your race have contributed little or nothing to science and philosophy and mathematics."

So far as you know, they have not; but if you will read the history of Africa, the history of your ancestors' people of whom you should feel proud, you will realize that they have a history that is worthwhile. They have traditions...of which you can boast and upon which you can base a claim for a right to a share in the blessings of democracy.

Let us, then, study...this history...with the understanding that we are not, after all, an inferior people. ... We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements. It is not going to be long before we can sing the story to the outside world as to convince it of the value of our history”.

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