Countries devote month to celebrate black history

by Daisy Jones-Brown
14th Flying Training Wing SAPR coordinator

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. — Black History Month, or National African-American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African-Americans in United States history.

The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted Harvard-trained historian Carter Woodson. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history. President Gerald Ford, commander in chief in 1976, called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The 2015 theme, “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture,” marks a century of officially celebrating black life.

Black life and history itself began in Africa, affectionately called the “Motherland.” Slaves brought history with them to the U.S. and adopted the culture of the new land, creating a unique culture known as black culture. Over time this culture transformed itself many times before becoming what it is known as today. So when you experience the celebration of Black History Month, it is an eclectic experience of food, art, music and more.

During the past century, African- American life, history and culture have become major forces in the U.S. and the world. In the beginning few could have imagined that African- Americans in music, art and literature would become appreciated by the global community. Fewer still could have predicted the prominence achieved by African-Americans, as well as other people of African descent, in shaping world politics, war and diplomacy. Indeed, it was nearly universally believed that Africans and people of African descent had played no role in the unfolding of history and were a threat to American civilization itself. A century later, few can deny the centrality of African-Americans in the making of American history.

This transformation is the result of effort, not chance. Confident that their struggles mattered in human history, black scholars, artists, athletes and leaders self-consciously used their talents to change how the world viewed African-Americans. The “New Negro” of the post-World War I era made modernity their own and gave the world a cornucopia of cultural gifts, including jazz, poetry based on the black vernacular and an appreciation of African art. African- American athletes dominated individual and team sports, transforming baseball, track-and-field, football, boxing and basketball. In a wave of social movements, African-American activism transformed race relations, challenged American foreign policy and became the American conscience on human rights. While the spotlight often shines on individuals, this movement is the product of organizations, institutions and institution-builders who gave direction to effort.

African-American history is rich in culture and full of struggle and triumph. Even with continued social struggles, each African-American is proud when they hear the national anthem. They enjoy and participate in the democratic society and defend this country and its freedom — those things that just make them American.