African American History is Our History: Dr. H. Fritz Williams, Jr.
Feb 3, 2020
Dr. Carter G. Woodson was dedicated to the study of African American History. He is noted in history as being the second African American to graduate from Harvard, the first being Dr. W.E.B Dubois. Dr. Woodson in February of 1926 encouraged Negro schools and Negro institutions to study Negro History for a week. Negro History grew from a week to an entire month in the 1960s and was recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Since then, Black History Month is celebrated for the entire month of February each year. Black History Month represents the challenge for the present and future to have a renewed purpose, an appreciation for personal relevance, and a shared participation in the study and experience of African American history.
This month acknowledges the hurt and denigration of African American history while simultaneously addressing the need to embrace hope. Hope unlocks the true knowledge and discovery of a new world. For centuries African Americans have endured the pain of a horrid past while their present struggles have been ignored and their futures denied. Many American institutions have purposefully ignored the relevance and contributions of African Americans to our country’s history. Dr. Woodson writes in his book The Mis-education of the Negro, “As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching.”
Black History Month is important because it celebrates the contributions of African Americans and their limitless potential. It helps unlock the tongues of African Americans, freeing all to speak truth to power. This recognition of the black self is a vital process of self-discovery for people of all races and ethnicities. Despite systematic legislation and protocols that continue to diminish the presence and dignity of African Americans, we still remain hopeful because of the powerful voice and spirit God has given us.
Participation in Black History Month is a continued effort to engage in seeing past and present injustices and to learn how to move forward towards a more just future. We should not become apathetic towards our collective history. We should become more active proponents in the study of our African American history both for the benefit of ourselves and of others. We should intentionally recognize and highlight African American contributions, achievements, artifacts, and culture. Dr. Woodson states, “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” Positive participation becomes a bridge leading everyone towards a more hopeful future that recognizes the inherent worth of each people group. My prayer is that historical hurt will give way to healing, and together we can build that bridge of hope for future generations.
Dr. H. Fritz Williams, Jr. is the pastor of First Baptist Church – Lockhart and a member of the core faculty at Stark College & Seminary. He received his D.Min. at United Theological Seminary and his M.Div. at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.