In February 1926, historian and writer Carter G. Woodson, who was known as the Father of Black History, instituted Negro History Week, which we know today as Black History Month.
It’s been written that Woodson’s intent, however, was not to limit the commemoration of the accomplishments of black Americans to just one week. Instead, he “pressed for schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what students learned all year,” according to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization Woodson founded in 1915.
Many African Americans, including Morgan Freeman, have advocated for doing away with Black History Month. In fact, “Woodson believed that black history was too important to America and the world to be crammed into a limited time frame,” according to the association. “He spoke of a shift from Negro History Week to Negro History Year.”
The debate of whether to eliminate Black History Month will continue later this week when Booker T. Washington National Monument will host a screening of the documentary “More Than a Month” on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
When he was 29, filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman traveled the country to interview experts and everyday people about race and power in today’s society. In the film, Tilghman asks whether there should be a Black History Month observance at all.
In a description of the film, posted on the PBS website, Tilghman “explains that relegating Black History Month to the coldest, shortest month of the year is an insult, and that black history is not separate from American history. Through this thoughtful and humorous journey, he explores what the treatment of history tells us about race and equality in a ‘post-racial’ America.”
Following the one-hour documentary, park ranger Brittany Lane will lead a short discussion about the film and the importance of Black History Month in today’s society. Both the film and subsequent discussion are sure to be insightful and informative. The event is free and open to the public.
Another can’t-miss event that the park is hosting later this month is the “Frederick Douglass Speaking Tour.”
Poet, author and spoken-word performer Nathan Richardson, who portrays Douglass, will offer a first-person interpretation of the famed social reformer and abolitionist at the park on Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. This event is also free and open to the public.
This is the sixth year of the “Frederick Douglass Speaking Tour,” according to Richardson’s website, and is especially poignant given that 2019 commemorated the 400th anniversary since the first Africans were brought to North America as slaves.
There are other events that the park hosts throughout the year, too, such as the Booker T. Washington Legacy Dinner on April 18 and the Juneteenth celebration scheduled this year for June 20. These are just two examples of activities offered outside of Black History Month programming, both are excellent opportunities to learn more about and celebrate the history of black Americans.
And with the monument right in our backyard, we can truly celebrate Black History Month year-round.