Remember why Black History Month exists

Black History Month provides an opportunity for recognition and acceptance that American history is steeped in the history of black America.

It’s a chance to focus on achievements and struggles and on reaching a time when we are no longer split by racial lines.

There are roots that go back to the 1920s, when Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves, earned his doctorate from Harvard. He knew then that history books in that day virtually ignored black Americans. But Woodson forged ahead working to change the situation. He founded the Journal of Negro History in 1926 and launched Negro History Week during the second week of February. He chose that week to honor the birthdays of two men who deeply affected racial relations in America – President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Black History Month also honors the great civil rights movement leaders of the mid-20th century. There’s Rosa Parks, who chose to make a stand by not giving up her seat on a bus. And when it comes to the civil rights movement, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated the dream of a nation where everyone has equal opportunities.

This year’s theme combines two of the aforementioned greats: President Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., with the theme being “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

African-American athletes and celebrities are most easily honored and remembered, but let’s remember this month is about so many more people and events. It’s about businessmen and women, inventors, attorneys, moms, dads, aunts and uncles and the countless others who are important and respected members of every community in the nation.

And Black History Month is about accepting the past as past, but noting that despite obstacles, the black population of the nation achieved, overcame and persevered.

From slaves brought against their will to America, to their descendants who were told in later years that they couldn’t drink from certain water fountains or eat at the lunch counter with whites, it’s about ancestry and realizing conditions have improved.

And yet, much work remains to be done.

We hope you can take some time to remember and reflect.