History Worth Knowing All Year
Wi Editorial Staff | 2/3/2011, 10:02 a.m.
If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.-- Dr. Carter G. Woodson
African American history did not begin when the first enslaved African landed on the shore of America in Jamestown, Va. in 1619. It is far greater than just the story of 400 years of slavery and its impact on the lives of millions of enslaved people who suffered through the brutality and hardship that came along with it. African American history includes the vast cultural influences and countless contributions people of African descent have provided to the United States before, during and after slavery.
Thanks to Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), the son of former slaves, the United States now recognizes the month of February as African American History Month. Woodson was disturbed by the fact that the achievements of Blacks "were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them," he said. To highlight the contributions of Blacks was not only meant to help Black people strive to improve their condition, but to inform and educate white people, as well. To ignore the achievements of Black people, Woodson believed, encouraged "race prejudice," which he defined as "merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind."
Dr. Woodson believed "If you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race. Such an effort would upset the program of the oppressor in Africa and America."
ASALH continues the work of Dr. Woodson of "promoting, researching, preserving, interpreting and disseminating information about Black life, history and culture to the global community." What Dr. Woodson believed then is still true today, that a proper education of "the Negro" must include the true story of their trials and triumphs.
This year marks the first annual African American Heritage Tour sponsored by The Washington Informer. Within days, more than 200 people had signed up for the trip to learn more about Frederick Douglass, the Sage of Anacostia. Hundreds of people are lining up to visit the National Geographic exhibition, America I Am, which details the African and African American experience pre-slavery to today. NBC4 is conducting its annual essay contest and schools, churches and community organizations are hosting Black history events all across the region.
Dr. Woodson knew then what we still know today, story of the African American experience is not being taught as it should be and that our children are growing up without learning their own history. And so it was in 1927 that he proposed a Negro History Home Study Guide. He wrote to a colleague...
"Recently a Negro instructor in a college was asked to give a course in Negro history. He treated the request as a joke. He has been well instructed in the story of the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Roman. He has made a special study of the achievements of the Europeans and Americans. He has been taught that these nations accomplished all. From his point of view, therefore, there is no other history worth considering."
Many people know that Black History is not a one-month celebration; it is an educational journey of learning that should take place all year, every year.