I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.–Muhammad Ali The Greatest (1975)
Each year from grade school through high school teachers plan their lessons around Black History Month. Many decide to direct plays, and cultural events that celebrate the lives of African Americans. However, each year, each show seems to be the same.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks were indeed major players in the change of Black history, but they were not the only ones. Many of our textbooks don’t seem to go past the Civil Rights Movement and vaguely tell the story of slavery. I wonder how the lives of young black boys and girls would change if they were taught more about who their ancestors were and what they did. There is pride in the truth and lessons learned in understanding our history.
Many of today’s youth do not have an appreciation for older generations and their struggle. Nor do they respect them. In some ways, Black history has become a fable to them. It is the same story told year after year. It is not surprising that there is a detachment.
We should know about stories such as Emmett Till, movements such as the Back to Africa Movement led byMarcus Garvey, men such as WEB DuBois who founded the NAACP’s journal The Crisis, and James Weldon Johnson who wrote the Black national anthem Lift Every Voice in Sing. Black history does not fit in a month nor does it fit in a textbook. Unfortunately, we have dropped the ball.
Although it may sound cliche, the saying is correct: you must know where you have been before you can know where you are going. America is Black history. It was built on the backs of African Americans using their blood, sweat, and tears. We use it, breathe it, speak it, and view it everyday. All you have to do is live to experience it. It’s time that our textbooks reflected that.