Black History Matters

Irv Randolph | 2/13/2017, 9:48 a.m.
Historian Carter G. Woodson’s goal to raise awareness of African American contributions to civilization was realized when he and the ...
Leaders link arms in front of marchers at The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom also known at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. -- Wikipedia photo

Historian Carter G. Woodson’s goal to raise awareness of African American contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925.

Negro History Week was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 because it encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

In response to Negro History Week, black history clubs sprang up across the country and teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils.

In 1976, the nation's bicentennial, the celebration was expanded to a month. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

That’s how we came to celebrate Black History Month.

The following is why I believe the celebration of African American history matters.

African American History is still largely unknown and underappreciated

The uplifting film “Hidden Figures” is a great example of how much African American history remains unknown. The movie which is based on a book of the same name is about African-American female mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s’ space race. The “Hidden Figures” story and the stories of so many other African American scientists and inventors remain hidden history for too many Americans.

In an ideal world the contributions of African Americans should be an integral part of the history of America.

But the contributions of blacks is still too often ignored or marginalized.

Textbooks continue to exclude significant contributions by African Americans leading to citizens who are not historically literate.

The third Monday in January the nation celebrates the birthday and legacy of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, how much do you know about others in the civil rights movement that not only changed life for African Americans but changed America and inspired other movements for social change in America and abroad?

A Southern Poverty Law Center study showed that most states fail when it comes to teaching the U.S. Civil Rights Movement to students. The study, “Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education 2011,” examined the state standards and curriculum requirement related to the study of the modern civil rights movement for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study indicates that “only three states — Alabama, Florida and New York earned a grade of A,” which means that “the state includes at least 60 percent of the recommended content.”

New Jersey scored 15 percent and was among 35 states that received failing grades when it comes to teaching students about the civil rights movement.

The study clearly shows that schools have to do a lot more to improve its teaching of civil rights history. School districts should reexamine the content of their curriculum and reevaluate how civil rights is being taught to students and if it is being taught by qualified history teachers.

The history of the Civil Rights Movement is too important to an accurate understanding of U.S. history and America today for students not to know it.