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Black History: More Than Just a Month

Fonda Williams
Fonda Williams

We are all aware that Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. With that being said, one would have to ask the question as to why is Black history month only celebrated in February, the shortest month of the year?

It has been well documented that Blacks in America have contributed to the growth of the country in many different ways. From George Washington Carver developing over 300 derivative products from the peanut to Shirley Chisholm being the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives, blacks have had great influence in shaping the course of America. It is my belief that the contributions of Blacks in America is a story that needs to be told year round, and not just one month of the year.

Founding director of the National Museum of African American History Lonnie Burch once said, “You can tell a great deal about a country and a people by what they deem important enough to remember, to create moments for, what they put in their museum and what they celebrate. In Scandinavia there are monuments to the Vikings as a symbol of freedom and the spirit of exploration. In Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis celebrated their supposed Aryan supremacy through monument and song. While America traditionally revels in either Civil War battles or founding fathers. Yet I would suggest that we learn even more about a country by what it chooses to forget: its mistakes, its disappointments, and its embarrassments. In some ways, African American History month is a clarion call to remember. Yet it is a call that is often unheeded.” Personally, I draw inspiration from Burch’s comments, and they remind me that Black History Month has served us well. Although we celebrate Black History month once a year, it reminds us that black history is not dead.

Fonda Williams has been the Deputy Mayor of Canton, Ohio, for the past ten years.

Our thanks to Ron Ponder for his work on this project. This op-ed was originally created for and published by the Canton Rep.

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