Margaret loves researching and writing about lesser-known aspects of holidays, traditions, and other things we take for granted.
Most people are aware that February is designated as "Black History Month." During the observance, the accomplishments of African Americans are recognized and celebrated in schools, businesses, and other organizations. It is an annual celebration not only in the United States but also in Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and other places in the world.
President Gerald Ford recognized the observance in 1976 when he encouraged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Since then, every president of the United States has issued a national decree that February continue to be recognized as Black History Month. Every year, there is a new theme. The theme for 2020, for example, is "African Americans and the Vote." This theme seems appropriate, as 2020 is a presidential election year.
Is Black History Month Effective?
Many people wonder if Black History Month is effective and relevant. Some question whether it is just a month of school assignments that do not have much meaning for students. They also question if it is just another month for Black folks to dress up in African attire even if they don't know much about Black history.
Television and radio programs seem to have a stack of materials ready to air about Black contributors every year in February. There are two main questions that come up every year.
- Does the month achieve its goals?
- Are people better off in March because of the Black history they were reminded of in February?
Not Everybody Is in Favor of the Celebration
As popular as Black History Month has become, everybody is not on board with it. The month is criticized almost as much as it is celebrated. It has received criticism from people of many races, including some African Americans.
Some who oppose the month's celebration argue that it is really a means of divisiveness. Others don't think it is effective or useful for the contributions of an entire race to be recognized just one month out of the year (its shortest). Some critics insist that Black history should be celebrated regularly instead of just one month each year.
Another group notes that while Black History Month should be inclusive, the same people are mentioned almost every year, and many lesser-known contributors never get recognized. They conclude that Black History Month is not inclusive because some of the contributors never get acknowledged. Every year, people hear about the same ones over and over.
Supporters of the celebration argue that the month raises awareness about African-Americans who have made contributions to the world. They praise teachers and other educators who highlight those accomplishments as part of their curricula.
Morgan Freeman's Position
For years, Black actor and director Morgan Freeman has criticized Black History Month. He was bold enough to say, "I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history." Freeman backed up his comment by pointing out that there is no White History Month. That's because White people do not reduce their history to just one month during the year. Therefore, Black folks should not do it either. Freeman concludes that Black History Month is "ridiculous."
You can watch Freeman explain his position on the matter in his own words in the video above of a 60 Minutes interview conducted in 2005 by Mike Wallace. When Wallace asked Freeman why he described Black History Month as "ridiculous," Freeman didn't hesitate to exclaim, "You're going to relegate my history to a month?" Then he asked Wallace, "Which month is White History Month?" At the end of the interview, Freeman concluded, "I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history."
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Stacey Dash's Position
Black actress Stacey Dash feels the same way as Morgan Freeman does about Black History Month, and she has been criticized for it. She said, "There should not be a Black History Month because Blacks are integral to the history of the United States and their contributions cannot be delegated to just one month."
In January 2016, Dash said there should not be a Black History Month because Black people have contributed to the history of the United States of America far more than just one month can tell. She added that Black people who have made significant contributions should be part of American history 365 days of every year and not just one month of the year.
The Case for Capitalization
There is a case for capitalizing Black and White in the context of racial identity. According to Conscious Company Media's style guide, Black should always be written with a capital B when writing about people of a race, culture, or ethnicity. Black with a lowercase b is simply a color. Both the Oxford and Webster dictionaries state that when referring to African-Americans, Black may be and often is capitalized.
The Associated Press and New York Times, on the other hand, say both "white" and "black" should be written in all lowercase letters. The Chicago Manual of Style allows capitalization if an author or publication prefers to do so.
Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on February 27, 2020:
My feelings about Black History Month are mixed, but one thing I feel for certain, is that Stacy Dash is seriously confused and I would have to question anything I might possibly agree on with her...
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 09, 2020:
Tim and Cheryl, Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on February 09, 2020:
African Americans should not expect the mainstream to tell our history accurately so we must address it. February is a starting point but it must continue.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 09, 2020:
I don't favor Black history month, Margaret. History should be taught within the context of when it happened. For example, when discussing the Civil War, I make sure to mention the Black soldiers that participated. I do the same with the Revolutionary War. I also don't like the term African-American unless we are going to call our European descended Americans: European-Americans. I've never visited Africa and my family has roots in the U.S. It only takes a few minutes to mention other groups during instruction and let children go read books about these individuals. But truthfully, Margaret, teachers are learning to be more culturally inclusive during instruction. In the long-run it saves time and enhances instruction. Thanks.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on February 08, 2020:
Very true Margaret