Black History Month. A 28 day celebration galvanized by Carter G. Woodson. Although it is the shortest month of the year, we started with a week. And even if it isn’t official, we can still celebrate Black History every month.
One thing that bothers me is that when it comes to school, you only really learn about six or seven Black historical figures and oftentimes, they may only get a few lines in the history book. Last year, I had a girl from Massachusetts ask me who Martin Luther King Jr. was. I mean, come on, America! But anyway, we hear about Martin, Malcolm, Rosa, Harriet and Sojourner. Some may even know who Marcus Garvey is but there are so many unsung heroes, people whose actions made a large change in history that may never get acclaim for it. For instance, Marie Ban Brittan Brown. This woman created CCTV. She was the catalyst that inspired an advance in security and nobody has any clue who she was. And let’s not forget about the pacemaker, the only reason why some people are still alive. It was invented by a Black man named Otis Boykin. Why are they unheard of? Why are there no books about them? It’s frustrating.
So here is a short list of some amazing people who rarely get enough credit for how they were a large part of African-American history or an ally down for the cause.
Merze Tate, a writer and activist that stood for Black women’s rights.
Frances Harper, first known Black person to publish a novel.
Dr. Henry Highland Garnet, an African-American abolitionist.
The Badgers. Females who were sick and tired of being mistreated, so used their womanhood to get back at those who thought they were less than human.
Fidel Castro. Although many people do not know this, the only reason Civil Rights were able to get to the place where it was in the 60s was because Castro funded a lot of Black actors, artists and writers. He stood up for the cause in the 40s and 50s before the embargo happened.
John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish. These freemen created the first Black newspaper in the U.S. It was called The Freedom Journal.
Rev. George Lee, urged Black people in his congregation to vote.
William Lewis Moore. This postal worker marched ALONE to the house of the governor of Mississippi in order to try to put an end to intolerance.
So how do you celebrate this month? By learning about the people whose actions allowed you to go to graduate school or not be the only Black person in your class. And although this month was created with the mindset of only honoring and remembering Black Americans, it is also a time in which we should learn about all the people in the diaspora that pushed us to where we are today. You can have with it, you might even discover a long list cousin or two, lol.
On another note, if you want to learn more about some of the people I mentioned and dozens that I didn’t here are some amazing books to check out:
Southside Girls by Marcia Chatelain
Sex Workers, Pyschics, and Number Runners by LaShawn Harris
In The Wake by Christina Sharpe
Chained In Silence by Talitha LeFlouria
The Revolution Has Come by Robyn Spencer
To Tell The Truth Freely by Mia Bay
Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram Kendi
There are so many voices that have been silenced either by hatred, violence or time that need to be heard. There are many stories that elders tell and young people, myself included, sometimes think of it as happening a long time ago. But that isn’t the case. A lot of this stuff happened in our grandparent’s lifetime. For some of us, it is our parents. My maternal grandmother still remembers exactly where she was and what she was wearing when she heard the news of Martin Luther King’s Assassination.
And, especially with today’s climate, there are some of us marching.
From my own experience….well, I won’t get into it but the battle still continues. We need to learn about Black history, whether you are a part of the culture or someone who wants to be educated ally. How can you know where you are going if you have no idea where you have been. History repeats itself and if we know how we won the battles back then, we can win them now.
If you have any facts you want to share, feel free to comment or contact me here.