February 9th, 2009
02:25 PM ET

Month robs blacks of part in U.S. history

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/09/art.obamamtveur.jpg]
Cynthia Tucker

When Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week in 1926, white mobs still lynched black citizens with impunity, black students attended inferior segregated schools and black patrons were not allowed to stay at major hotels in Montgomery or Memphis. There were no black players in the major leagues, no black Cabinet secretaries and no black generals or admirals in the armed forces.

Woodson, who was born to former slaves but went on to earn a Harvard doctorate, believed that America ought to recognize the significant contributions that its black citizens had made to the nation’s cultural and civic life — contributions that were ignored in (or, in some cases, expunged from) the historical record. So he chose the week in which both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born to commemorate the substantial achievements of black Americans against heartbreaking odds.


Filed under: Black in America • Race in America
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Brandon Brown

    The most interesting thing that many forget is that this country was built on the backs of slaves of every ethniticty including WHITE SLAVES. Go back in history and look it up. I am tired of hearing it. We now have a black President and the Head of the RNC is balck. I am a white republican and couldn't be happier. Mr Steele is going to prove to be one of the greatest leaders in this country. Do you hear him sitting around complaining about his history? NO. He is hard at work trying to move this country in a positive direction. What an awsome example to us all. Why don't you quit complaining and takes some notes.

    February 9, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    It doesn't hurt to have Black HIstory month; I always learn something from it and enjoy having the chance to do so. I think it is important to see what different groups have contributed to our history and made us the melting pot that we are. We should honor all contributions and the people responsible for them. and yes, it should be part of our daily curriculum in history to learn not only the things we have always had to learn – treaties, wars, etc. – but the daily contribution that each group made and still makes to our country.

    February 9, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  3. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    In the late 1800's my great-great grandmother claimed her children were white on US Census forms so that they would not face discrimination. She was Choctaw, her husband (my great-great grandfather) was Irish, and his ancestry was less discriminatory than hers. Unspeakable horrors were done to Native Americans, my collective ancestors. They were taken off their land, killed though genocide by our own government, and treated less than human by whites who did not want to understand their culture or ways. Yet, we (meaning Native American descendants) don't whine. We don't scream about discrimination or the poverty and addictions and lack of opportunity some Native Americans still experience today. We don't have much ado made about a month in our honor to acknowledge our achievements in creating this nation that was ours before any white ever thought of settling it. Instead for me there is silent pride in being ever so tiny a part of something great in this country. There is pride that my great-great grandparents had guts enough to break barriers because love was greater. Maybe if we all simply looked with pride at what our ancestors did to create America and make her what she is, we could skip all this month nonsense. Really, everyone throughout the generations contributed in their own ways. That should simply be enough.

    February 9, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  4. MzGee

    In my household every day is about Black History, I teach my children their history because they don't teach it in school. My children get american (white man's) history in school, what they don't hear about are the strong, brave and spiritual Black people who helped make this country the success it is today. Some white people will not even acknowledge the contributions that Blacks made in this country. The way I feel has nothing to do with slavery and everything to do with the fact that in 2009 I am still judged by the color of my skin and not the content of my character.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  5. William of Iowa

    In a utopian, politically correct world Ms. Tucker has a valid point, no arguement. But I look at Black History Month as an educational excercise. The more emphasis, the more attention and quite possibly more understanding of human culture – good and bad. More attention needs to be given Americans of diverse backgrounds – unity through understanding. Power to all people.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  6. Jane

    Sue: There are months for many of those groups. Women's History Month is, in fact, next month. And if anyone thinks that eliminating Black History Month (or any of the others) would cause those groups to be suddenly included in history classes that have ignored or omitted them for at least the past seventy years, they are wrong.

    Additionally, if anyone thinks that the crimes committed against these groups by the greater part of society do not continue to reverberate today, they have not been paying attention. It isn't wallowing, remembering could promote healing, if only we'd remember everything as it was and not as it's been spoon fed to us.

    February 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse NY

    For once i agree with Cynthia Tucker. Her concept needs to be expanded though. It's time that organizations that purport to advance the rights of minorities now realize that the legal framework for equality has been achieved. More than any time in history, it is the drive, initiative, intelligence and hard work of the individual that determines advancement or lack thereof, not race. Yes, there are differences in income by race. However, when you factor in the school dropout rates and single parent rates (both individual choices) it's not surprising. You can't expect a HS dropout to equal a college graduate in earnings. Yet the Jesse Jackson's of the world will never be heard condemning those who drop out. It's always someone else's fault. Organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus, and NAACP have outlived their usefulness. Affirmative Action has become an end as oppoed to a means to an end. The old guard continues to try to blame the 'system' or society for what is now an individual responsibility issue. Bill Cosby has been saying this for years. To his credit, Barrack Obama seems to share the concept.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  8. Dana, Trenton, Michigan

    Too all that responded why is this even in discussion, is because I don't know to many other groups that were treated in such a manner, and no one ever apologizes for their past mistakes. It seems as though people just want to forget, like nothing never happen. I suggest you look a the story of "LiL Man" the gentleman that CNN Don Lemon did story on who has worked in the cotton fields for over 70 yrs just now retiring or Mr Wilson (KKK ret.) apologizing to Rep Lewis after beating him over three decades ago. Slavery and the total denial of culture advances have hurt the African American plight. Now over 200 years a house that was built by slaves, Black family dores the halls, not as servants. No more "Master, beating with whip, or cutting of the foot to run to freedom." Please take another look not to judge for people wanted to talk about facts of a ethic group not cleanes from sins of the pass when still so close to past not forgotten.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  9. Danyel

    I read the comments that everyone has said about this piece. Can people honestly say that we have forgotten what has happend to african americans,blacks, or negroes as some today still refer to us as. White people and other ethicity groups that used blacks as slaves committed the biggest human rights crime in history. Let us have something you took away our freedom, life, and ideas what else do you want. You make us believe that we can't amount to anything, but only what hollywood shows in movies. We are doctors,lawyers,and yes presidents. Yet you have a problem with one month. Get off the gas if you have a problem tell it to your state representive. Let us brag on something for 28 days (which happens to be the shortest month). If you ever went into a store and had someone follow you around because of your skin color then you can say what you want but you haven't so stop complaining.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Melissa from New Orleans

    This may sound a bit... thoughtless... But its something that needs to be said.

    Yes, slavery is absolutely horrible and it should never be repeated. Its true that discrimination and prejudice are despicable and should be eliminated from society.

    Its also true that frankly, some people in this world just simply need to move on and let the past be the past instead of wallowing in it as though its the present when it isn't.

    Most recently something unthinkable and shocking happened, a black man was elected President of the United States.

    Why not take great pride in how far you've come instead of wallow in history?

    Its time to move on.

    February 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm |
  11. jarrod

    why is this even a discussion with our diverse culture there should be no month dedicated to any one group of ethinticity if we are going to have a month dedicated it should be Cultural Diversity Month slavery has long been abolished and the problem today is everyone wants to look back when we should be looking forward that is what Abraham lincoln and Martin Luther King invisioned not looking back at suppression that is breathed back into our society year after year

    February 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Larry

    Ms Tucker. Did Mr. Woodson make note that in 1777, the first nation in the world to recognize the United States was the Kingdom of Morocco. Ten years later, the two countries approved a treaty of peace and friendship, which today remains the longest unbroken treaty of its kind in all history. In the days since, we have stood together to live up to that treaty's ideals and to secure its blessings for others.

    The following location shows the letter of appreciation from George Washington:


    February 9, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  13. sue

    If it gives one child a sense of pride then its worth it... but it does make one wonder why there isn't a native american pride month, asian pride month, hispanic pride month, woman's pride month, gay pride month, italian pride month, irish pride month, etc... I guess it does make sense since the onus of slavery was the hardest burden to overcome and so many have overcome it with such dignity and grace through enduring it, through jim crow, and civil rights and dealing still with every day racism... maybe there should be a month where everyone takes pride in not having any bias or prejudice, but then again that should be every month!

    February 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  14. Mike in NYC

    Honestly, I thought every month was Black Deification Month. Some people are never satisfied, it seems.

    Interesting that you linked to the AJC site.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  15. Bob

    With our economy in the tank, so many Americans are dealing with their creditors through customer service centers that are in other countries.Every time I call them, I demand to speak to someone in the USA. If more Americans insisted on this, then the remaining American customer service workers would be valued to the point these companies would not outsource jobs as much. Let's stand up to these greedy corporations that outsource our jobs to other countries. I think a lot more needs to be said through the media about this growing problem.

    February 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm |

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