Black History Month: Annual celebration or historical observance'
February 6, 2009
As Fort Bragg prepares to celebrate Black History Month on 19 Feb at the Officers' Club, you begin to realize that a lot of thought has been given to the month of February since it was desigA,Anated as Black History Month in 1976. Many still wonder why it is celebrated and there are others, still, who refuse to acknowledge its being. So I've decided to look deeper into the comA,Amemorative month and elabA,Aorate on why there is a month that celebrates the contributions of african Americans in the U.S.
Black History Month or African American History Month, as it is also called, originally began as Negro History Week in 1925, after Harvard-trained african American historian Carter G.
Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The organization urged many blacks to become aware of the contributions that their race had made to society. It was no coincidence the observance took place in February. It was originally observed during the week that both President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born. From 1926 until Woodson's death in 1950, the observance of Negro History Week was part of the curriculum in black schools and many affluA,Aent white schools. The schools, along with several national organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People only fueled the consciousness of those interested in learning about the history of blacks in America.
Black History Month became an official observance in 1976, after President Gerald R. Ford endorsed the month as a time when Americans should accept and remember the contributions made by black Americans throughout history. The month was commemorated and officially observed as Black History Month by the ASNLH, 50 years after it was originally organized.
We, as Americans, tend to forget the significant contriA,Abutions to American culture by numerous black invenA,Ators, scholars and scientists.
We carry on from day to day, going about our business without thinking about how difficult things would be if someone hadn't taken the necessary steps to make our life a little easier. We place their significance in the far corners of our mind until we are reminded, annually, by numerous observances and celebratory programs.
We all know the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We've all heard the stories of Rosa Parks and how she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus in the 1950s. These were influential people in the civil rights movement and their contriA,Abutions are, without a doubt, important parts of african American history. But there is so much more to the black American's contribution to society than Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Oprah Winfrey.
There's Garret Morgan, who invented a gas mask and protective hood that was used to protect U.S. doughA,Aboys from chemical warfare during World War I. He also invented a traffic signal that featured the mechanical Stop and Go signs, which was used as the protype for our current traffic signals.
George Washington Carver developed numerous prodA,Aucts from farm produce, such as peanuts, sweet potatoes and pecans. He is credited with making tremendous improvements to agriculture in the south.
George Crum invented the potato chip and who doesn't love a good bag of potato chips'
Dr. Charles Drew develA,Aoped the concept of having a blood bank, which has saved millions of lives by having blood plasma readily availA,Aable for emergency situaA,Ations.
Otis Boykin invented the electronic control system for guided missiles, IBM comA,Aputers and pacemakers.
Dr. Patricia E. Bath discovA,Aered a process of laser eye surgery that now allows blind people to see. Her method of surgery calls for the removal of damaged or faulty parts of the eye to allow a new lens to be placed. In the past, scientists deemed this an impossible feat.
Madame C.J. Walker invented a solution that grows hair and she created the straightening comb.
Although she grew up poor, she became America's first female african American milA,Alionaire.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams founded the Provident Hospital in Chicago in 1891, and performed the first sucA,Acessful open heart surgery two years later.
Dr. Mark Dean led the team of IBM scientists that developed the ISA bus, which allowed computer components to communicate with each other faster. He was also responsible for creA,Aating the first one-gigahertz computer processor chip.
These are all people who have made a difference in American culture. Not just by leading protests against injusA,Atice and discrimination, but by making every day activiA,Aties more convenient.
And lastly, we can't forget about our current President Barack Obama, who became the 44th President of the United States earlier this year. That is a position that many said a black American would never hold. But on Nov. 4, 2008, Obama and the American people defeated the odds.
As for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. he is and will always be a staple for black history in the U.S. His legacy of nonA,Aviolent protest and his demand for ethical treatment to all men, not just blacks, sent a powerful message about the state of racism and lack of equality in the U.S.
during the 1950s and 60s. I think it is important that his teachings and accomplishA,Aments, along with those conA,Atributions of many other sigA,Anificant black Americans, be included as part of American history and not just recalled during the month of February.