Honoring African American history
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Ohio’s Kent State University in February 1969, and the first Black History Month celebration took place at the university a year later, from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, 1970. Six years later, President Gerald Ford first officially recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial by urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Black History Month has since been celebrated annually in educational institutions, arts/cultural centers and African American communities across the U.S., as well as in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The observance began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. The importance of studying and remembering Black history has just as much significance in 2021 as it did in 1969. The tragic, senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans led to outrage and garnered much-needed public attention and support for the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
The new year has already seen many positive historic moments for African Americans. On Jan. 20, Kamala Harris became the first Black woman Vice President of the United States and Raphael Warnock became the first Black senator in Georgia. The first National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recited “The Hill We Climb” at the presidential inauguration.
Far too many barriers have been in place for far too long for a country founded in 1776. Let this serve as a strong reminder that African American history is still being written, every day, and it needs to be studied and honored by all Americans, every month – not just in February. We have many more hills to climb in our quest for racial equality.