Heejae Park/OCSA/11th Grade
Beyond well-known and celebrated holidays such as Valentines Day, February is also notable for another annual commemoration: Black History Month. The month is spent to spread awareness of and highlight significant moments and developments in African-American history, and has its grounds in influential people in black history.
The origins of Black History Month and the recognition of African-American involvement in American history stem from opinions concerning the education system and its paradigms throughout the 20th century. Carter G. Woodson, a student of history from the University of Chicago and Harvard, noticed the underrepresentation of black people in the discussion and education of American history. Recognizing that African-Americans had much greater involvement than what many records seemed to imply, he set out to create initiatives to recognize and celebrate historical black accomplishments.
According to TIME Magazine, this led to the start of a “Negro History Week” in 1926, a moment of time dedicated to recognizing the history and contributions of African-Americans in shaping American history to its values and characteristics at the time. The second week of February was chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
It was not until the mid-1960s that the movement had transitioned into a month of celebration. African-American history still had little recognition, and so colleges and universities made the decision to turn Negro History Week into a month of recognition for African-Americans.
Nowadays, Black History Month is still recognized and celebrated to raise awareness for the pivotal points in American history in which black people have played a hand in. It is still widely celebrated today, and many acknowledge its importance today.
Elsa Li, a high school junior, reasoned that Black History Month remains significant today. “Emancipation for African-Americans wasn’t exactly the ending for segregation; black people still worked through many other hardships related to racism,” Elsa said. “I do think that it is good to have a month dedicated to recognizing African American history. It’s a nice way to appreciate them and pay tribute to their efforts.”
The movement itself has also changed as a result of the shaping and development of African-American history, such as their place within entertainment and culture. While having its basis in education, the celebration itself has expanded to fulfill its purpose of highlighting black history as African-Americans’ role in American society worked its way into other fields and aspects of society.
This is a shift recognized by Thomas Jang, a high school sophomore in Irvine. “I can definitely see its roots and importance in the field of education,” Thomas said. “But now, I think that while still including education, it’s also become a strong cultural movement by celebrating the achievements of people in entertainment.”
<Heejae Park/OCSA/11th Grade