February is Black History Month. Signs and ads are everywhere. Yes, some of them are “blackwashing”—does Wegman’s really need to put Black History Month signs on hair products meant specifically for African-Americans’ hair?
Don’t let the advertiser bandwagon keep you from taking advantage of the authentic offerings of this month, including the highlighted books, movies, documentaries and articles.
Paying attention to Black History Month is essential for at least 5 reasons:
- We never learned it.
Most of us learned no Black history except the Civil War. I was never taught in school about redlining and the ways the GI bill after World War II didn’t benefit veterans equally. I never learned that 4,400 Black men, women and children were lynched. No one told me that Hiram Revels and Blanche Bruce became the first African Americans to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the 1870, but targeted and unfair changes to voting laws after Reconstruction meant there would not be another Black senator until 1967. We don’t know what we don’t know.
- If we don’t learn from history we are likely to repeat it rather than improving the future.
When we love our country, we want it to be even better, to be more equitable and just. The mistakes of the past should help us prepare for the future, giving us the wisdom to make better choices. Why wouldn’t we want that?
- All people are created in the image of God. Their stories are important.
People matter. Every person, whatever their ethnic background, color or race, matters to God. They should matter to us as well. Yet their experience is not ours. We get to know people—people from the past and from the present—through their stories. If we are going to love people the way Jesus calls us to love, we need to listen and learn from their stories. By listening and showing respect, we develop empathy and compassion, traits that Jesus exhibited in his interactions on earth.
- We have the opportunities to discover new heroes to inspire us.
Maybe your entrepreneurial passions will be inspired by Madam C.J. Walker, the first woman to become a self-made millionaire in America. Perhaps your daughter or granddaughter will be confident she can pursue mathematics because of Katherine Johnson, whose story was told in the film Hidden Figures. You may explore the possibility of writing a memoir after reading Harriet Jacobs‘ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself published in 1861.
- It’s interesting!
Learning about history is fascinating. Listening to someone’s story can spark our imagination or inspire our actions. Perhaps something you learn during Black History Month will make you angry at injustice, and God will use that to spur you on to work for improve a societal problem.
Don’t waste Black History Month—and don’t stop learning at the end of February.
Here is my challenge:
1. Sign up for the Equal Justice Initiative’s daily email, “A History of Racial Injustice,” and learn throughout the year.
2. Read one nonfiction book that covers some aspect of Black history or the African-American experience.
3. Read one fiction book by a Black author.
4. Listen to one podcast or watch one documentary or movie that relates to Black history.
If you need some recommendations, feel free to message me.
5 thoughts on “5 Reasons We Need Black History Month”
Nicely done. Points very appropriate for our times. Thank you!
Carol, Many years ago a read a book “Black Like Me.” I don’t remember the authors name but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was an eye opener.
Thank you for giving us such compelling reasons to learn more about our history, especially what was left out of our course work and classes many years ago. I especially like your challenge to your readers this month (and beyond)!
I’ve read Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy but haven’t signed up for EJI’s daily emails – thanks for that reminder.
As for fiction, have you read any of Colson Whitehead’s books? I have not but think I’ll start with The Underground Railroad. If you have a podcast recommendation on this subject, please let me know.
Thanks again for your challenge to us all!
Thank you, Debbie! I haven’t read any Whitehead books yet; I’ll add them to my list. For fiction, I am currently reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (her earlier book Homegoing was wonderful). I don’t usually listen to podcasts, so I found this list (https://variety.com/2023/digital/lists/black-history-month-podcasts-1235525955/) and have downloaded an episode from Code Switch and the first one from 1619 (I have the book but haven’t started it yet) and will try to listen on my way to work this week.
I’ve been very conscious for the last 3 years or so to add books by authors of color to my to-be-read list, and I try to buy them even in hardback to encourage publishers to continue to publish them.