Why We Should Be Celebrating Black History Month Year-Round

2018 has brought with it another successful Black History Month. Former President Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian Museum, which made history in their own right by being the first official portraits created by people of color. The First Lady’s portrait was also the first portrait created by a woman. The long-anticipated Black Panther also premiered this month, generating excitement across the nation. As Black History Month comes to an end, I am beginning to wonder why black culture and history aren’t celebrated year-round.

This is a community whose literal blood, sweat and tears helped lay the foundation of our nation, yet the month that celebrates the achievements and sacrifices of black Americans is often eclipsed by Valentine’s Day, a day that some people loathe and others consider commercialized. Coincidentally and ironically, Black History Month is also celebrated during the shortest month of the year. A common protest around Black History Month is that there isn’t a White History Month, so why should black Americans get a month to themselves? The short answer is that black Americans are often left out of conversations regarding accomplishments in American history. The accomplishments and struggles the black community achieved and endured are obscured by hegemonic teachings that often focus on white male-dominated moments. Historic events involving people of color that should be emphasized are generally glazed over, neglecting the major impact minorities have had on the nation.

Courtesy: CNN

The acknowledgment of black history should not be contained to a single month. It should be celebrated every month and every day. In addition, the moments that are celebrated should not be limited to only milestone events; both small and large-scale accomplishments should be recognized. Average people, not just celebrities, historical figures and politicians, should be commended for their accomplishments and memorialized. After all, excellence occurs every day in America. As a nation, we should learn to incorporate learning about black Americans into our lives outside of the academic setting. This is information we should seek out voluntarily. Books, documentaries and films are available to us about black Americans, so we should actually consume this information.

Oftentimes, we get stuck learning about the same events, speeches and figures when we discuss black history, which is not a terrible thing. But we should strive to learn about lesser known events and people in the black community. The importance of recognizing different figures is apparent through the recognition of Katherine Johnson and the other black female mathematicians of NASA that inspired Hidden Figures. Imagine how many other unknown stories are waiting to be uncovered.

Courtesy: Daily Press

With this said, black history is something that should and easily could be incorporated into history classes from elementary school to high school. In elementary school, there is more of an emphasis on black history, which fades as school goes on. Who knows the cause for the disappearance of black history from the curriculum? The topic could have been minimized due to teachers focusing on information that would be covered on standardized testing or it could have just happened unintentionally over time. Regardless of the cause, it deserves much more attention. Black history should not be just an elective, it should be taught consistently in American history classes because it is American history. It should be taught alongside the Revolutionary War, Prohibition and the Great Depression.

Educational systems could easily shift attention to black history by choosing more representative texts when creating curriculum. A novel in an English class could easily be swapped out for one written by a black author. Supplementary texts and assigned articles in history classes could highlight issues and events involving black Americans. Videos shown in music classes could include some black musicians. A complete educational reform does not have to occur to add diversity to lesson plans. Educators can make small choices that would have a major impact on how black history and culture is integrated into lessons.

Courtesy: The New York Times

Black history is not the only subject that deserves more attention in schools. Native American, Hispanic and Asian heritage should be applauded and discussed in American history as well. These communities have even less of a spotlight than black history in some schools. Women’s and the LGBT community’s accomplishments should be highlighted as well. In recent years, our culture has emphasized the importance of representation in media, and education should be no different from the media. These communities deserve more than just a month because their contributions to the United States are significantly greater than the chapters of textbooks that are hastily addressed for a week or two in class. America is nicknamed the melting pot—it’s time our history reflected the diverse origins of its moniker.