A Study of Black History Month

By Fred Whitted
Updated: March 9, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — As we experience the early days of March, it’s important that we look back at another Black History Month that has ended. Since we went to the expanded version of Dr. Woodson’s dream about thirty years ago, this has been the pattern.

As a nation we pause to celebrate the contributions of Blacks to America, and the world. For about 20 thousand folks, this culminated in the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte a few weeks ago. Black History Month will end while we watch young people play basketball at one of the largest annual gatherings of Blacks in America.

The CIAA is history all by itself. It is also a celebration of history. The regulars are no longer surprised by who they see in the stands or on the concourse. Great events draw great people.

At the same time there is a feeling like the one the late Eddie Robinson used to describe Grambling: Here, everybody is somebody. In essence, those who have arrived mingle with those on their way.

From this and other venues we will watch Black History Month slip away. It will be packed away like Christmas decorations, not to be thought of again until the New Year begins, unless there is one of those earth shattering incidents that give us a wake up call. It also points to how we really feel about Black History.

There should be questions among all of us about how to keep Black History in the forefront rather than stuffed in a box. It must become part of American history, and celebrated on a daily basis.

Until Black History truly becomes American history, we will continue to do a disservice to a great portion of our population. So, what will you be doing to keep Black History alive throughout the year?

Will you add to those Black History Facts that you have been bombarded with over the past month? What will you do about those specials that you missed on PBS?

Did you watch the entire 30th anniversary edition of “Roots”? Will you check out any of the few videos at the library on Black History? Will you read any books on Black History between now and January 31, 2009?

Just so it is clear, these questions are aimed at Blacks. Over the years it has been assumed that Blacks know Black History. That is false more often than true.

Yes, most of them know the bare basics. All too often, we find that only a few have more knowledge than the bare basics. We must ask ourselves why most young Blacks did not know who Dr. Mason Quick was?

The same applies to other Blacks who have died in recent years. They should have known about Dr. Marion George and Judge Arthur Lane. Their passing went far too quietly.

We must also ask who is responsible for teaching our history to young people. I propose that we look to the institution that we have always turned to as our spiritual as well as social foundation, our churches.

Until we have embraced and passed our history on to our youngsters, we continue to do a disservice to them. We do not need another basketball league for kids ignorant about themselves.

We do not need another gym for another kid to be like Mike when he does not know about John McLendon or Big House Gaines or Earl Lloyd. We must teach our youngsters that such thing as the four-corner offense was played in Lily Gym of Fayetteville State’s campus before it was introduced to the schools in the ACC.

We must tell our young people that the Charles Chesnutt on the stamp is a product of Fayetteville State.

Last year I challenged Black churches to step up and accept the challenge of teaching Black History. I caught hell from a few ministers who recognized my face from the op-ed page.

I actually respect most of them because no one likes to be called out. The greater question is why was there so much silence from the rest of them?

What we have to look at here is what are we teaching, and, what are we doing? Teaching the bible is not the question in this case. It is learning the lessons taught in the bible.

What does “a good name to is be cherished really mean?” What is “leaving an inheritance to your children’s children mean?” Why does the bible list parents and lineage so many times?

Teaching Black History, in addition to what is already being taught, will help solve many of the issues we face. Black youth are bombarded with the negatives about themselves.

We cannot wait for others to teach the good about US. I am willing to help those willing help with the process.

I leave you with a paraphrase of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. It is not that bad things are taught about us. It is that those who are taught are good, thus, the perception is that because nothing is taught about us, we are inherently bad.

We must remember that we too are made in God’s image and likeness, and, this must be taught to our people. It not just what we know, it is what are we willing to learn.