We invite you to read and comment on this essay written by Dr. Marvin A. McMickle which was published in the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle's Unite Rochester blog on February 11, 2015:
As a result of the efforts and initiative of the Harvard-trained black historian, Carter G. Woodson the month of February is now known as Black History Month. He first called for a special focus on the historical pilgrimage and accomplishments of African Americans back in 1926, and at that time the celebration was limited to just one week. The month of February was selected because it was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and Frederick Douglass who was an escaped slave who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and who also recruited black men to enlist in the Union army and fight for the final eradication of slavery. When done properly, Black History Month does not begin with slavery in this country. Instead it begins with the great African civilizations that thrived in the centuries before Europeans first began trafficking in human lives. It is a time to remember the presence of and contributions of African people in antiquity, including the African presence in the Bible. It is a time to remember that like the Jewish community, there is also an African diaspora that has seen people of African ancestry migrate and populate places all over the world. Black History Month is a time to remember the contributions of African Americans to every aspect of life in this country. The full story about advances in medicine, literature, music, science, athletics, politics, journalism, law, theology, mechanical engineering, and banking cannot be fully told without references the contributions of African Americans. Sadly, we still need Black History Month because so many school districts, text books, and boards of education pay little or no attention to the full story of the African American experience. I invite all citizens of Rochester to know not only about George Washington, but also about George Washington Carver. I invite you to learn not only about Wiliam Shakespeare, but also about Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Phyllis Wheatley.
When you think about Babe Ruth don't forget Josh Gibson. When you think about Laurence Olivier think also about Ira Aldrdige and Paul Robeson. Everybody who has gone go see the movie American Sniper should also agree to see Red Tails which is about the Tuskegee Airmen. There are a great many people, black and white who have no awareness of the ways in which their daily lives have been shaped and impacted by the inventions, creations, and contributions of African Americans. There is more to learn than can be taught in one month. Black history should be more intentionally woven into the standard curriculum of every school district in this country. However, until that day comes we will keep looking forward to Black History Month as a way to better understand how this nation and this world have been enriched by the contributions of African Americans; many of those contributions coming in the face of great disadvantage and discrimination. From one end of Greater Rochester to the other, we may more quickly improve race relations if we can first alter racial impressions. The truth about African Americans remains largely untaught and thus unknown. Let's all agree to watch one TV special, attend one stage production, read one recommended text, go to hear one lecture, or ask one elderly black person what changes they have seen in this country during their lifetime. You will be surprised what you discover about this country and ALL the people who helped to build it.
To share or comment on Dr. McMickle's blog online, see: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2015/02/11/the-blessing-and-burden-of-black-history-month/23219349/