2-24-12: The Purpose of Black History Month
February became Black History Month in 1976 – stemming from Negro History Week, which was started in the 1920s by historian and author Carter G. Woodson.
At the time of the expansion, then-president Gerald Ford said: “In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from the recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The social studies curriculum for the state of Maryland does not tie its lessons about black history to a particular month—though individual schools and counties may choose to do so. In the meantime, Skipp Sanders, the interim director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History, says attendance goes up exponentially during the month of February – really, starting with Martin Luther King Day.
Now, close to four decades later, some people within the African American community are calling for the end of Black History Month. Filmmaker Shukree Tilghman created a documentary called “More than a Month,” which aired on PBS stations nationwide last week.
Here in Baltimore, Loyola Communications Professor Kaye Whitehead, who wrote an op-ed in last week’s Baltimore Sun entitled “Black History is American History.” Meanwhile, others, such as Sheri Parks, a Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, believe the month still serves a purpose.
Here, Tom Hall talks with both Dr. Parks and Dr. Whitehead about the merits of the month.