What Does Black History Mean to us?
Written by: Jordan Bowles
Edited by: My Identity Mag Team
At myidentitymag.com, we dedicate ourselves to celebrating and honoring #culturalidentity, #unityindiversity, and #ethnicdiversity that encompass our world. In honor of February being Black History Month, this article is dedicated to Black/African-Americans in celebration of the rich culture of this particular group, and the many contributions made that helped American society flourish to what it is today. It is important to note, however, that those responsible for recording American History have not adequately documented the many vital contributions made by African-Americans into the history books distributed in our educational system. When someone mentions the words “black history,” the images that come to mind are the 200 plus years that slavery was legal, the impact and assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, the political unrest of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Panther Party, the inventions of George Washington Carver and so forth; while all of these events/figures are incredibly important to the historical significance of the Black/African-American ethnic group, there are so many more impactful events and individuals that not only changed the lives of African-Americans but American society as a whole.
It is important to understand that throughout history, especially in America, black people have been victims of oppression, exploitation, and marginalization. The way that history has been written about black people and many communities of color have been structured in a way where it has catered to the needs of a white hegemonic cultural appeal. In the decades prior to the technological advancements we have today, books were one of the earliest forms of media, and these very forms were instruments used to downplay the exploitative and oppressive tactics employed during the days of colonialism by the hegemonic culture in order to ultimately subdue, control and profit off of ethnic minorities. In the very same way that current media corporations try to “humanize” Caucasian perpetrators who commit heinous and violent acts against people of color (while ultimately villainizing people of color who are victims of violent occurrences like police brutality),
American history has been written in such a way where the Caucasian individual has been hailed as the American hero while simultaneously marginalizing the African-American individual’s sacrifices and dedication to this country.
Black people have made fantastic and groundbreaking contributions throughout history in
the fields of medicine, education, politics, science, engineering, the arts, and so much more.
For example, Otis Boykin, a Black inventor, was responsible for the creation of the pacemaker, an invention that has positively impacted the medical field to this very day. African-American physician Dr. Charles Drew is credited with the reason we are able to conduct blood transfusions. Dr. Drew conducted a study that was dedicated to finding a
way to separate and store plasma in blood saving thousands of lives during World II; his
research was successful and this ultimately led to the creation of Blood Banks (not to
mention he was the first African-American to get a doctorate degree from Columbia University). Dr. Drew later resigned from the American Red Cross due to the organizations
stance on segregating blood from white and black donors.
Did you know that Chicago Illinois was founded by a Haitian man named Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable in the 1780’s? How often are contributions of Haitian’s in American History ever mentioned? Little is known of the support Haitian soldiers provided Americans in winning American Independence during the Revolutionary War. On October 9, 1779, free Haitian men fought alongside colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah.
Furthermore, civil rights influencer and activist Rodolphe Lucien Desdunes developed a committee to combat segregation, edited the Crusader, a weekly newspaper to inform black
and Creole leaders of segregation laws, and he notably worked on the Plessy v. Ferguson trial. How are these people of Haitian descent treated in American society today? Are the sacrifices of these black people recognized by mainstream American culture, are they seen as only “boat people” who should be deported in their time in need?
The list of Black/African contributions that helped shape and build American society is countless. This is not to say that we ignore or take for granted those that have been highlighted throughout American history, such as Rosa Parks, or Sojourner Truth or Frederick Douglas. However, if there was no Claudette Colvin (who is first credited for refusing to give up a bus seat for a Caucasian individual to take her place), there may not have been a Rosa Parks or the Browder vs. Gayle case that ultimately determined that having a segregated bus transportation system was in violation of the constitution. The reason that we have people today like Barack and Michelle Obama, Misty Copeland, Maxine Waters, Oprah Winfrey, Roland Martin, Angela Rye, April Ryan, and so many more, is because of the numerous Black/African-American individuals who passionately aided in establishing the American civilization in spite of blatant racism and other oppressive obstacles that were purposely established to thwart these dreams.
In the current political and social climate of American society, we have reached a point where there are those who try to combat the establishment of Black History Month by questioning why there is not a “ White History Month.”
As previously mentioned in this article, the way American history has been written was to cater to the dominant Caucasian culture. There was a point in time when, on paper, in order to gain as much profit as possible during slavery times, black people were only considered as three-fifths of a person. This was of course not only grossly untrue, but this was also a clear example of how black people literally had to fight for their humanity. They had to work hard to prove that they were equally a member of the human race.
It has been a very long and hard process for black people to be where they are today, and the current political climate especially proves that there is still work to be done. The point of having Black History Month is not an underhanded political ploy to cause further division and unrest, but it is a reminder of how rich the American culture and diversity is, how strong and beautiful the people are, and how black people have earned the right to be treated with the respect, dignity, and appreciation that they have been grossly denied for centuries. It is important to recognize Mr. Carter Godwin Woodson for establishing the pre-cursor of Black History Month, called “Negro History Week” in 1926. For 93 years, we have had the honor of continuing the legacy that he established and we must make sure that this legacy continues to grow for generations to come.
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