Quick Read: Honoring Black History throughout the year.
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As Black History Month comes to a close, I want to share a few thoughts to take into the remainder of the year.
At the beginning of the month we introduced our social media followers to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the "Father of Black History" who founded "Negro History Week" in 1926 so that the contributions of Black people would be recognized as an integral part of American history, and Black people would have a narrative that countered the false notion of their inferiority. "Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history," he said.
Many years later Negro History Week morphed into Black History Month, but the integration of this knowledge into school curriculums is often a perfunctory obligation limited to February.
However, there is no shortage of Black icons who made history and deserve to be celebrated. Following is a short list to explore these contributions more deeply.
* Ida B. Wells – an acclaimed journalist, she penned reports shedding light on lynching across America and took the reins to lead a protest in Washington D.C., where she demanded that the White House pass laws to protect Black people. She eventually joined with other Black leaders to co-found the NAACP.
* Fannie Lou Hamer – a preeminent activist, she founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to fight the party's exclusion of Black people. In 1964, she became a lead organizer of Freedom Summer, where she tried to register hundreds of Black people in the South.
* Hiram Rhodes Revels – was a preacher, college administrator, and the first Black man elected to the United States Congress.
* Garrett A. Morgan – was an inventor who held patents for a hair-straightening product, a breathing device, a revamped sewing machine, and created the traffic signal device that would eventually turn into the three-way light we know today.
* Daniel Hale Williams – was the first Black cardiologist, and the first doctor to ever successfully perform open-heart surgery.
Another opportunity to delve into Black history can be found in: Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California. <[link removed]> There you will find a multi-media representation of largely unknown stories like that of the former slaves, Biddy Mason and Edmond Wysinger. Mason became an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Wysinger bought his own freedom and went on to win a lawsuit that made it illegal for California public schools to ban Black students.
If any of this resonates with you, consider appealing to your local schools and ask them to enhance their Black history curriculum. As Dr. Woodson stated, Black history is integral to American history.
As always, we thank you for your support.
Pronouns: she, her, hers
Communications Director, ACLU of Northern California