Black History’s history

People’s Weekly World, 2001

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard PhD., proposed in 1926 that February be set aside for the observance of Negro History Month, now called African-American History Month. He made the proposal to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, which explains on its web page, The true facts of the contributions of Afro Americans to the discovery, pioneering, development and continuance of America have not properly and adequately been presented in the textbooks, media and other communications media. For the most part, Blacks have been left out of the written record of America.

Woodson chose February because he knew the power of symbolism. February was the birth month of both Frederick Douglass, a fugitive slave and a great abolitionist, and also of President Abraham Lincoln, signer of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today, African American History Month is widely celebrated—but not widely enough. It is not a month to be observed only by African Americans. Anyone who seeks to understand the history and culture of the United States must study the struggle of the African American people for equality. Anyone who seeks to defend and expand democratic rights in America should seek to grasp the interplay between the struggle for African American equality, labor and women’s rights, Latino, Indian, Asian and other communities and their struggle for equality.

For the United States, since the first manacled slave was brought ashore in Virginia in 1619, the history of African-American people has been one of the human need to be free and a key factor in the history of American democratic struggles.

Black history, like other historic reflections, are often sanitized with an idealistic interpretation, aimed at removing the vital element of struggle. It was necessary for historians like Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Herbert Aptheker, both Communists, to counter the lie of contented slaves, for example, by bringing to light the reality of Negro slave revolts.

With the stealing of the election, including the violations of the Voting Rights Act to facilitate it, and now with the Bush agenda unfolding, a fitting slogan for Black History Month is Frederick Douglass’ immortal, Without struggle, there is no progress.