Ina Briggs, 8th grade instructor at Gary Comer Middle School, a Noble Network of Charter Schools campus located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.
Why should Black History be considered a part of history?
I will begin by answering this question with a quote that says, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Each school year I begin my class with this quote spoken by the powerful ancestor, Marcus Garvey. I chose this quote because I believe that Garvey knew the importance of keeping the deep history of African Americans alive. He understood that history is not only a thing of the past but that it is constantly being made. It is a way of establishing a reason to exist in the world through the numerous stories and achievements which are shared within the race as well as with the rest of humanity. To not acknowledge Black history as a part of history is to deny the people whose story it tells of the right to tell it. A tree without roots is no longer being fed, thus it is at risk of dying completely. It is to say that every struggle, victory, loss, pain, and glory made was in vain. The implications on an entire race of people who lack awareness of their prior struggle are that they are bound to repeat it. Black history is by many accounts the history of America. To think that American culture could even exist as it is today without the impact of its slaves and what they contributed is highly erroneous. America was built on the backs of Black slaves. From the historical monuments that we marvel at, to the development of an industrial economy, to the integration of African foods, agricultural techniques, music, literature, and dance; the list goes on. I would venture to say that the question is not why should Black history be considered a part of history, but how can we separate the two? One history simply does not exist without the other.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
When I think of Black History Month I feel an intense sense of pride. Reflecting on Black history and having the ability to teach it reminds me that I am strong and capable of accomplishing everything that I set out to do. When things look bleak in the news, and I’m hearing of account after account of police brutality and violence, I can retreat to stories of determination, fearlessness, and victory made by African American leaders of the past! I can then share stories like this with young ladies and gentlemen who sit before me in my classes and watch their eyes light up because they are also proud. Celebrating Black History Month means paying tribute to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who devoted his life to the development of the study of African Americans. His passion for bringing awareness to the accomplishments made by African Americans is evident in the fact that almost 100 years later, something that started out as an idea developed into a week-long celebration amongst a few, to what today is a month-long celebration held in many countries. Sharing Black history is necessary and should be taught thoroughly in all schools, to all people. It is just as important for African Americans to understand Black history as it is for people of all races. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Carter G. Woodson for the establishment of Black History Month!
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