After years of celebrating Black History Week and pressing for more observance of the contributions African Americans have made to history, and in celebration of our bicentennial in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. While this was a major step towards equality, it is also a glaring indictment on American culture and the lack of sensitivity to people of color. How many other months for people of color or origin are needed before the textbooks accurately depict our history and the many contributions that people from all walks of life from every part of the world, have made?
There is only one history and our effort should be ensuring it is accurately presented and all other versions discarded. We are delusional if we believe it is okay to set aside a month to properly illuminate the many accomplishments of people of color. History is rich but for far too long it has been whitewashed over to imply contributions from people of color while important are limited in scope. If history were told accurately, you would not be able to turn to any major event and not find significant contributions, honorable and dishonorable, by people of color. After the Civil War when people of color were “free,” dispensations were set to accommodate for people of color not being adequately recognized and included in mainstream America. However, it has not been so long ago that we can’t remember how those accommodations and recognitions compared to the norm. And, while many accepted the landscape, acknowledging it was better than what people had previously enjoyed, there were still those who understood that this was not equality.
Millions of other individuals, myself included, have benefited greatly from the recognition of the contributions of African Americans and other people of color in creating Black History Week in 1926. I also applaud the gratitude and acknowledgement that President Gerald Ford offered around 50 years later in the expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month. However, I would like to propose a new initiative, a next step if you will, that I believe would significantly benefit all people interested in the accurate portrayal of history. In the same spirit as a “jury of your peers,” a new history book should be written that would be used by all elementary, middle and high schools in the country that is authored by a group of Ph.D. level African, Hispanic, Asian, Native, “other” American historians and illustrated by minority graphic designers. After this history book has been in circulation in all our schools for a couple of years, we could change Black History Month to “My History Month” and celebrate the great contributions that all of our ancestors have made throughout the United States.