“History is not about the story of men and women of one race or color and the neglect or omission of the men and women of another race or color. It is not the glorification of any people of a single color to the exclusion of those of other colors, but it is the story of all peoples irrespective of race or color. It deals with people in all times and places and should present the contributions of all peoples to world civilizations.”
- Luther Caesae Keith, Founder, United Committee on Negro History, Detroit, MI 1955.
The United Committee on Negro History held black history programs every February in Detroit from 1955 thru 1974, with prominent African Americans as speakers including journalist Carl Rowan and educator Dr. Benjamin Mays.
An oft-asked question during February, what is the purpose of a Black History Month? One writer has opined that the three words actually help define the purpose.
- First, it is about black people.
- Second, it is about the history of black people in this country.
- And third, it is about focusing on that history for the month of February.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, is credited with being the “Father of Black History”. This designation derived from his life-long commitment to accurately telling the story of the role of black people in world civilization. In 1926 he founded Black History Week which is presently a month long observance.
There are multiple publications inferring that Black History Month is African-American History Month. For this writer, I think this inference is too narrow. A reading of Dr. Woodson’s writings clearly indicates he was very much aware of the contributions of all people to the advancement of civilization world wide, and this includes those native to and derived from the African continent. The tenor of the times may not have been conducive to his expanded view of black history on the world stage, but he clearly expresses this.
"We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race, hate, and religious prejudice. There should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro. The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has far influenced the development of civilization” - Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Failure to embrace the conclusion Luther C. Keith expresses in the opening quote – that history is the story of all people irrespective of race or color – leads to peace and tranquility continuing to be an elusive dream. We must learn to truly value the contributions and equality of all. Black history spotlights the contributions of the people of the African diaspora in all times and places and our ability to think about them should not be limited to 1619 forward. To control the thinking about one group’s historical contribution is to control the actions of those contributing to that history, as well as the actions of others with limited or no knowledge of that history.
"If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one” - Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
Black History, like all history, is made 365 days a year and should be studied and understood, 365 days a year. Just my thoughts, I did not come to these thoughts lightly I was greatly influenced by my Uncle Luther Cesar Keith.