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Why I Hate Black History Month

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Am I a traitor for disliking the month that celebrates us?

Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks

Kimberly Seals Allers: It's Black History Month.

As a black woman, I'm delighted to see my history celebrated and acknowledged. But as a mom, it continues to be one heck of a frustrating month. In fact, I've grown to hate Black History Month, because inevitably one of my children will come home with an absolutely incorrect "fact" imparted by a well-meaning-but-not-too-thoroughly-prepared teacher.

For example, one year, my daughter, Kayla, came home after seeing the Black History Month play at her mostly white private school. I asked her what she had learned from the play. Her response? "That slaves stole things, and they didn't know how to read or write." HUH?!

My correction? "
Slaves weren't allowed to read or write; they would have been killed for it." Big difference!

Another year brought yet another assignment to write about slavery or how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Needless to say, we did something else.

Attention teachers, principals and all educators in any teaching role imaginable: "Black history" is about more than just slavery. So if you are going to teach black history, please don't just talk about the parts that you feel most guilty about, the parts that come readily to mind or the parts that you yourself were taught in school decades ago.

Now, I fully understand that Black History Month was scheduled to take place in February because that was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln (who freed the slaves) and Frederick Douglass (a leading abolitionist who helped slaves escape via the "Underground Railroad").

However, there are a host of other people and periods that could be discussed during Black History Month -- such as the Civil War, Reconstruction or the amazingly powerful Harlem Renaissance.

Consider discussing people like Madam C.J. Walker, the first black millionaire. Or Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the Supreme Court. Or Ralph Bunche, the first African- American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Or the time when Harlem became the hotbed of black intellectualism, art, music and culture.

Better yet, take a look at our rich African heritage. Any good online encyclopedia will tell you that the historical roots of black slaves in the United States can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Mali, Ghana and Songhai in Central and West Africa. These kingdoms were rich in art, literature and music -- a historical reality that was purposely suppressed to support the pro-slavery moral position that was necessary in order to convince the world that blacks were less than human. This is a truth that must be taught.

Please do not create more work for me by making me correct your history mistakes. (Quite frankly, I have enough to do.) I've spent years -- and earned multiple degrees -- studying your [white] history, so please take a few moments to get black history correct.

I should not have to send my children to the Benjamin Banneker/Malcolm X/Betty Shabazz/Booker T. Washington School for them to have an accurate Black History Month experience. (I won't even begin to expound on why African-American history isn't taught more all year 'round.) 

I'm hoping that every year more and more teachers will get the point: Our history as black Americans is as integral to this country as the history of any other group. Maybe one year soon, I can scratch "correct Black-History-Month errors" off my February to-do list.

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21 comments so far | Post a comment now
nieruchomości łódź December 27, 2010, 5:59 AM

Good an very informative post. I will come back to your blog regullary. One thing: I do not exactly know what do you mean in the second paragraph. Could you please exmplain your opinion?

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