Remembering the legacy of the African Diaspora

Noah Nelson

Black History Month in the United States is celebrated annually every February. This month is dedicated to the study, remembrance and celebration of this history of African Americans and people of African descent all across the planet.

The precursor to this month, known in 1920 as negro history week and also celebrated in February, was created by the man known as the father of black history, Carter Godwin Woodson. Woodson, a graduate of Harvard who is remembered as a historian, an author and a journalist, was one of the first scholars to study African American history. He was also the founder of both the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and The Journal of Negro History.

Woodson believed that studying history was a way to preserve something. He contended that teaching black history would help the survival of African Americans.

“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.

Terrance Harris is an assistant director of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center here at Oregon State University.

“We celebrate BHM to honor, educate, enlighten and celebrate black excellence,” Harris said. “From inventors, trailblazers, entrepreneurs, politicians and more, we highlight the importance of African Americans in this country which institutions fail to educate everyone about.”

For the majority of American history, African Americans have been legally oppressed. From slavery to Jim Crow, the legacy of white supremacy has left a brand of racism in the United States. Even after reaching legal equality, African Americans have struggled with issues within their community, like police brutality, financial practices aimed at creating poverty, lack of access to housing, lack of access to education and the largest incarceration rate of any demographic on the planet.

Black History Month is used to highlight the achievements of African Americans who overcame the hurdles of racism to accomplish something amazing. From the abolitionist Harriet Tubman working to free slaves to the inauguration of the first African American president Barack Obama, African Americans have fought hard and made strides to overcome racial inequality in this country. Black History Month is here to celebrate the legacy of these fighters.

“We celebrate triumph and so much more, as the ancestors laid the foundation for us and future generations to build upon,” Harris said. “It is important that we remember where we came from and where we’re going next.”

Black History Month critiques the more traditional American educational curriculum that either skips many prominent African American historical figures or only mentions a few well-known ones.

“There is so much that people don’t know regarding black history, more than just highlighting Dr. King as most only want to focus on,” Harris said.

Although Black History Month has received some criticism, with critics calling it divisive, Harris believes Black History Month is the opposite. With the lack of prominent African Americans being discussed in the classroom, Black History Month aims to educate the public on a type of missing knowledge. The study of black history can be seen as a missing piece in the puzzle of American history.

“It is important because it not only is black history but American history, which all should know and understand,” Harris said.

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