Why Black History Month?

| January 25, 2014
Eric Hackley

Eric Hackley

THE HACKLEY REPORT

As we enter February 2014, the 38th Anniversary of Black History Month, we have to ask ourselves, why is there a Black History Month? Why is it in February? What is it intended to do? Is there anything that Fort Wayne Blacks of 2014 can do to add to the genius of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s insights concerning the intellectual enlightenment of black people?

According to Daryl Michael Scott, professor of History at Howard University, the story of Black History Month begins in Chicago in the late summer of 1915. Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the State of Illinois.

Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history. On September 9, 1915, Woodson and 4 others formed the Association for the study of Negro Life and history (ASNLH).

Woodson realized that most text books at this time ignored the history and achievements of blacks. This in addition to the Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916, he wanted to find a way to encourage interest and study of black history. As early as 1920 Woodson urged Black Civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering.

In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. Their outreach was significant, but Woodson desired greater impact. As he told an audience of Hampton Institute students, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” In 1925, he decided that the ASNLH had to shoulder the responsibility. Going forward it would both create and popularize knowledge about the past. He sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February 1926.

It is commonly said according to History Professor Daryl Michael Scott, that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping Black History, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, whose birthdays are the 12th and 14th respectively.

Although I am presenting a very limited, condensed overview of the origin of Black History Month’s scope and intention, one remaining question stimulates my curiosity. Although I absolutely understand the importance of knowing about the trials, tribulations and contributions that past Blacks have made to make American in some way better, I think Kekionga Blacks have a point to make that can significantly add to this discussion.

I agree with the insights of Dr. Carter G. Woodson that Black History Month celebrations should always promote the accomplishments of black people. But as we salute those who have succeeded, there does exist real forces out there that somehow systematically trap the majority of blacks at the bottom of America’s social, economic and ethnic hierarchy. Are the masses of black people uneducated, lazy and stupid? Why is it that everyone seems to dislike black people including black people themselves? Why is there such strong self-hatred as shown by black on black violence and a lack of cohesion? Are there any Rev. Jesse White protégés out there to stand up to this confusion?

Many “Fort Wayne Blacks” feel that when the idea that we have been brainwashed, socially engineered and behaviorally conditioned comes up for debate, they tend to dismiss or joke about it professing that it’s psychologically beyond our individual control and therefore they don’t fight it because it is a fight that can’t be won.

Kekionga Blacks don’t give up that easily. That’s why we have declared “WAR on Willie Lynch Slave Mentality.” That’s why I have extended a personal invitation to black pastors, Nation of Islam and other Muslim leaders, Moorish Americans, Hebrew Israelites, barbers and nail technicians, middle, high school and college student leaders and black educators to discuss Black History Month intellectual reform. We feel that some relevance, thought and intelligence needs to be applied to how to overcome hundreds of years of brainwashing, how to battle and overcome the impact of colonization and early American historic White supremacy, laws and customs. If you think we’re going in the wrong direction and you have a better idea, we can discuss that too.

I will host this Black Community Forum Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 at the Pontiac Branch Library large meeting room. We plan to start videotape at 6 p.m. and conclude about 8 p.m.. The term “War” is a metaphor, so leave your artillery at home.

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Category: Local, National, Opinion

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at hackonomicstv@gmail.com.

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