Black History Month, started in 1926 as “Negro History Week,” was an initiative to get black history recognized and taught in school. Prior to this, prominent blacks had been left out of the history books or, when mentioned, were mentioned in order to exhibit their inferiority.Black History Month was an important and needed initiative. Americans were missing an important part of their historical roots and needed to learn about their past – a past that is not confined to white men.
But instead of being a recognition of achievement, Black History Month is becoming a form of segregationist history. Its celebration encourages teachers to confine black history to the month of February.
But black history is more than just a one-month celebration. It is more than just the history of black Americans.
Black history is American history.
As Black History Month achieves its goal, returning black history to its rightful place, the goal should be an integration of history, a filling in of the gaps where all important historical figures are mentioned, regardless of race. American students should be studying important black figures alongside important white figures.
Studying black history during the month of February pulls history out of its proper context. Historical figures are easier to understand when placed appropriately in the times and places that they lived.
For instance, it is much easier to understand Harriet Tubman’s historical role when it is taught in the context of American slavery and the underground railroad.
Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month, has focused the American eye on black accomplishments. Now, America needs to accept that history as its own and integrate it into curricula.
Opinion editor Stephanie Weaver for the editorial board.