February, the shortest coldest month of the year is the month the nation celebrates Black History Month. Why February many have asked? Some speculate that the month of February was chosen as a slight to black Americans in order to limit the number of days we might celebrate the achievements of African Americans. And we know from the geology of Afrika that except for the highest elevations the climate is free of snow and ice. Some believe that the winter season is an additional slight to a group of people characterized as coming from a tropical environment. Apparently, the assumptions are not based on the facts.
Back in the early 20th century, black historian Carter G. Woodson decided that the second week of February would be designated Negro History Week; a week that coincided with the births of Abraham Lincoln (02/12) and Frederick Douglas (02/14) both of whom were celebrated for the “uplifting” of black Americans. Woodson’s historic idea was embraced by educators of all creeds who understood the necessity of teaching the historical contributions of American blacks. By 1929, forty-six states participated in the celebration of Negro History Week. Nationally the celebration led to the creation of black history clubs and piqued the interest of progressive whites. So despite what you’ve been led to believe, Black History month is deeply rooted in the modern history of our country. Black History Month was the idea of a black man who had the best of intentions when he chose February and he had the support of the society at the time.
In 1976, the volatile racial climate here in the United States contributed to president Gerald Ford’s designation of February as Black History Month. Today, despite the derision that some feel in the current sociopolitical climate, black history month is widely celebrated, particularly in the cyber world and all forms of media.
Here in the 21st century an intense debate has developed over the need for a Black History Month. Some blacks resent the designation because black history is American history. There are folks like me that understand that one can never have enough information about the black/Afrikan diaspora because of the amount of misinformation and revision that has occurred over centuries about the black experience.
Most American history books and every movie about Afrika shows white or mixed race individuals as the intellectual force behind every innovation be it from science, engineering or architecture or the formation of social structures. Anyone with a good education knows the assertion – that Caucasians came into Afrika and created art, culture and civilization – is pure nonsense but hype unfortunately reigns over indisputable facts in the modern world.
I was fortunate in my early formal education. I chose anthropology as a minor and my field of foreign study was Afrika, while at the university. Before my time at the university, I was a militant young man, from a tough urban setting, happy with the color of my skin and proud of my heritage. And I grew up at a time when many of us had a hunger for knowledge of the pre slavery history of the Motherland.
I discovered, during my educational pursuits that man as we have come to know him, evolved and prospered on the Afrikan continent. At the university I discovered that the text books provided to me during my primary education deliberately misled me into believing that early Egyptians looked like Europeans. Those deceptions have been perpetuated to this day in all aspects of modern media. Television shows like Jungle Jim and Tarzan depicted Afrika as a place controlled by whites with hidden tribes of white appearing people who thrived and created historical cultures throughout the continent. Every movie version of Cleopatra depicted the great ruler of Egypt as a Caucasoid female. The only depiction of Cleopatra that I was able to find, while researching this article – after looking at hundreds of images – that truly resembles what Cleopatra may have looked like came from Renaissance artist Michelangelo’s rendition of her.
The unavoidable implication is that ancient Europeans knew the truth about Afrika. They had no real choice after exploration of the continent began. Unfortunately, exploration begat exploitation as Europeans ‘conquerors’ moved into Afrika. As time moved forward and slavery of black Afrikans proliferated, the view of Afrika and Afrikans became skewed by those that sought to justify the rape of the Motherland. Afrikans, whom the ancient Europeans regaled as having god like status and who were known as global conquerors throughout the ancient world, were reduced to savages by their exploiters, over the course of three centuries.
Post Reconstruction Americans like Carter G. Woodson understood the value in uplifting the image of people of Afrikan ancestry. Negro History Week, social organizations and educational initiatives were burgeoning for black folk, at the beginning of the 20th century. The 60’s and 70’s in America were times of political upheaval, as Americans fought and sacrificed lives to for economic and social equality.
Today in the early 21st century, many have forgotten or simply choose to ignore the tumultuous history that has brought western societies to this point in time. We need only to look at struggles in other parts of the world to reflect on the struggles that shaped American society. Unfortunately, it’s easier for some to accept hype and convoluted logic over history; a history that is quite accessible in this information age.
I look forward to Black History Month. For me it’s a time to learn and a time to educate. And one can never have enough education.