Explaining Black History Month

Explaining+Black+History+Month

McKenna Christy and Catherine Christy

The Patriot Press is motivated to cover the necessity of Black History Month in our country and at Liberty. This month, our readers can expect to see stories written about the historical achievements made by African Americans throughout history, and along with the theme for this year as it pertains to voting. February and every month of the year is a time to celebrate Black history, and we as a staff hope to convey the importance of this. 

 

Black History Month officially started on the first of February, and the theme for this year, “Africans Americans and the Vote,” is not only fitting because of the upcoming presidential election. February 26, 1869 is the 150th anniversary of the passing of the 15th amendment, in which African American men were given the right to vote. 2020 will also mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, finally granting women the right to vote. 

Black History Month is a celebration of the great achievements made by African Americans throughout history to the present day. The once only a week of celebration, now transformed into a nationally recognized month, is a time to reflect and recognize those people and moments that contributed to the progression of breaking down oppression toward African Americans in the United States.

 

The seed of Black History Month, also referred to as African American History Month, was planted in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, when Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. ASNLH was a group dedicated to promoting the excellence and achievements of black Americans and others from African descent. The organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

In 1926, the organization sponsored a week in February called “Negro History Week” which inspired schools and communities to create clubs, lectures, and celebrations for black life in America. As the decades passed, the week of celebration spread across the nation with mayors proclaiming recognization of the month. By the late 1960s, many college campuses extended the week long celebration to an early Black History Month. But it was only in 1976 that the month was recognized nationally following Gerald Ford’s endorsement and support. 

Black History Month is something most Americans know about, but what many don’t know is that each February has a different theme that correlates with issues relevant to the time. With the first theme in 1926 being “Civilization: A World Achievement,” the goal has always been to bring awareness to the success and lives of black people throughout all time. In recent years, themes have been more focused on African American issues that reside within the United States.

Within the past decade, election years have become catalysts for conversations about voting and the presidency. In 2012, the theme was “Barack Obama’s National Black History Month Proclamation” and expanded upon what it means to be an African American president. This February’s theme is “African Americans and the Right to Vote,” which marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote and the sesquicentennial of the 15th Amendment which allowed African American men to vote in 1870. 

The theme of 2020 goes beyond the amendments that gave African Americans the right to vote and opens a conversation towards the methods used against African Americans that prevented them from voting and even the low registration of black voters today. 

Some question the relevance of Black History Month in 2020, yet fail to recognize the struggles that continue into the contemporary world. With this year’s theme, it’s important to break down the reason and need for Black History Month and education. It’s a common misconception that African Americans don’t vote as much as other racial groups in the United States. But what many fail to recognize is the years of voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering that keep African Americans from displaying high voter turnout rates. This suppression of the black voter has caused years of underrepresentation in government and the country.