Dating back to 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson had a dream; no, not just like Dr. King, but each man’s efforts have contributed to the advancement of African Americans. With the passing of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we enter a month honoring African Americans known as Black History Month. But for this celebration, we should turn our attention to the lesser-known Woodson; perhaps his efforts outweigh Dr. King’s – at least in February.
Woodson founded the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, hoping to prove Africa and its people played an important role in the development of civilization. The Harvard-trained Woodson established a scholarly journal, The Journal of Negro History, and aimed to counter racial falsehoods and alter whites’ views of the black race.
However, a decade into his effort, Woodson began to sense that scholarship was not transforming race relations and whites still kept the same general viewpoint toward blacks. By 1926, Woodson decided to expand his efforts and help begin Negro History Week. This prompted the creation of many black history clubs, and Woodson helped to meet the demands of the newly formed clubs, providing photographs and portraits, plays and other means to re-educate blacks on their history.
After his death in 1950, Woodson’s association continued the celebration of black History Week, which had become a central part of African American culture and had a significant impact on educating Americans on the impact blacks had in society. By 1976, 50 years after its first celebration, the association sponsored the first Black History Month, recognized by all presidents after its creation by issuing Black History Month proclamations.
Woodson’s accomplishments are often overlooked, and the importance of Black History Month seems to have lost impact over the years. While this actuality can be attributed to a number of factors, we must remember one thing during the month of February – African Americans have played an important part in shaping American society, and their influence in many different areas of life should not be overlooked.
In society we celebrate many different months to recognize different cultures and events throughout the year.We celebrate Hispanic Heritage and Disability Awareness Month in October, Women’s History and Irish American History Month in March, Holocaust and Jazz Appreciation Month in April and Universal Human Rights Month in December. However, the one that sticks out is Black History Month in February.
We tend to recognize certain months and celebrations while leaving out others, so we must make a better effort at recognizing the significance of all months. While some months are more relevant than others to certain individuals, the significance behind the celebration has played an important part in shaping our society, and these effects should not be ignored. We must recognize each celebration and honor them equally, understanding their importance and appreciating each holiday for the role its leaders have played in society.
Perhaps a quote by Woodson best sums up the importance of remembering the past ideas that have helped shape our society, no matter our ethnic background.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Let us remember past accomplishments and become inspired to follow Woodson’s primary principle – becoming educated. Only then can we truly appreciate our past.