What is Black History Month, and why is it important?

BySandra Bookman KABC logo
Friday, February 9, 2024
What is Black History Month, and why is it important?
This February, we are celebrating the accomplishments of Black Americans during Black History Month.

February is Black History Month, a time the country highlights and celebrates the accomplishments of Black Americans.

And the fact that Black history is part of America's history is important for all Americans to know, learn about, and understand.

But many Americans of color, especially Black Americans, have long complained their stories, their accomplishments, have all too often been left out of the history books.

"It's not just Black history," Harvard Kennedy School professor Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad said. "My thing is, this is American history."

In 1926, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson organized National Negro History Week to promote and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans, which has grown into today's "Black History Month."

It was a move designed, then and now, to counter negative and racist stereotypes ingrained in American culture.

"We really do have to make sure that a broader, richer, what I might call an anti-racist basis for learning American history be taught to every child in this country," Dr. Muhammad said. "And especially white children."

Dr. Muhammed, a professor of history, race and policy, says you can't actually understand the country's politics, its wealth, and the fragility of its democracy, if you don't acknowledge the global footprint of Black people.

"This is our history," he said. "This is the world we made together."

And that is the philosophy that runs through Dr. Komozi Woodard's African studies class at Sarah Lawrence College. He says the majority of his students are white, and they are hearing many of the facts he teaches for the very first time.

"They regret the fact that they have to go to college to re-learn American history," he said. "They are disturbed that they didn't learn it in high school."

Lakeasha Williams is the principal at PS 399 in Brooklyn and says she'd like to see current history books re-written to better reflect Black history.

Until that happens, she's embedding it within the existing curriculum -- even using current events like recent social justice protests as teaching tools.

"America represents so many different cultures," she said. "So it would be unfair for us to focus the entire story from one perspective."

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