Human Rights Committee: Let Freedom Ring – Why It’s Important to Have Black History Month

Nate Waters, Chair, Human Rights Committee

The other day I was asked, “Why do we still need Black History Month?”

First and foremost, I’d say we need it because we have unresolved racial divisions in this country that originated centuries ago with an economy built on slave labor. Black History Month presents an opportunity to educate and raise awareness of the systemic and cultural barriers that Black people have faced throughout the nation’s history and continue to face today. By educating people, particularly our children, on this history, we can work to raise awareness and work toward greater racial equality and unity.

Each February since 1986, the U.S. has honored Black people from all periods of American history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today. Black History Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of our country and to promote unity across different races and cultures.

Black History Month provides a forum for celebrating the many contributions of African American and Black men and women to society. People like Garrett Morgan, the inventor of both the first three-way traffic light and the gas mask, and Frederick Jones, who invented the first portable air conditioner. These inventions are credited with improving safety and the quality of life for millions, yet how many know their names? By highlighting Black history and achievements, Black History Month provides representation for Black people who are often underrepresented or misrepresented in mainstream media and education.

Without Black History Month, the contributions of African American/American-Negro/Black persons would be forgotten. Black History Month is a time to acknowledge key figures from our past and present. It’s an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the achievements that African Americans have accomplished in this country, despite the history of racism and oppression.

It’s necessary that we remember and never forget.  And truly one month is not enough. It’s not just Black history, it’s American history. If we don’t have Black History Month, too many would try to forget the history of our country, and when we forget where we’ve come from, we are lost.