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Why I Hate Black History Month

I appreciate the sentiment and all, but I have to tell you, as a Black mom, I'm really starting to get a little frustrated with Black History Month.

 

 In fact, I've grown to hate Black History Month because inevitably one of my children will come home with an absolutely incorrect fact from a well-meaning but not too thoroughly prepared teacher.  

 

For example, one year Kayla came home after seeing the Black History Month play at her mostly white private school. I asked her what she learned from the play. Her response, “that slaves stole things and they didn’t know how to read or write.” HUH??? Was this the teachable moment the school was going for?

 

My correction: Slaves were not allowed to read or write. They would be killed for that. There’s a big difference.

 

Another year it was yet another assignment to write about slavery or how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Needless to say, we did something else. 

 

Attention teachers, principals, and all educators in any teaching role imaginable: Black history is more than just slavery. If you are going to teach black history, please don’t just talk about the parts that you feel most guilty about, the parts that come readily to mind or the parts that you were taught in school decades ago.

 

And it wouldn't hurt to try something new.  

 

Now I fully understand that Black History Month was instituted in February because it was the birth month of Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves and Frederick Douglass, a leading abolitionist who helped slaves escape via the “underground railroad.”  

 

However, there are a host of other periods to discuss during Black history Month, like the Civil War, Reconstruction or the amazingly powerful Harlem Renaissance.

 

Think of people like Madame C.J. Walker, the first black millionaire. Or Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the Supreme Court. Or Ralph Bunche, the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Or the time when Harlem became the hotbed of black intellectualism, art, music and culture.

 

Better yet, take a look at our rich African heritage. Any good encyclopedia (remember those?) will tell you that the historical roots of black slaves in the United States can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Mali, Ghana, and Saonghai in central and west Africa. These kingdoms were rich in art, literature, and music. This historical reality was purposefully suppressed to support the proslavery moral position that needed to convince the world that blacks were less than human. This is a truth that must be taught.

 

Please do not make more work for me by having to correct your historic wrongs. I’ve spent years and earned multiple degrees studying your history, so please take a few moments to get black history correct. Quite frankly, I have enough to do.

 

I should not have to send my children to the Benjamin Banneker-Malcolm X-Betty Shabazz-Booker T. Washington School for them to get an accurate black history month experience. I won’t even begin to expound on why African American history isn’t taught more all year round.

I’m hoping that every year more and more teachers will get the point, that our history as Americans is as integral to this country’s history as any other group.

And one year soon, I can scratch “correcting Black History Month errors” off my February to-do list.

Comments
5 Responses to “Why I Hate Black History Month”
  1. Execumama says:

    I definitely echo your sentiment, Kimberly! The often skewed perspectives of media, educational institutions, and others leave us having to address the information our children receive about their very own culture. I too appreciate the sentiment of Black History Month, but perhaps there should be a movement toward getting the information from the sources, rather than regurgitation tidbits of things teachers might have read somewhere! It’s harmful to our children and beyond frustrating to us as parents!!

  2. Kimberly,

    That leaves me just shaking my head at it all. It is funny how, whenever Black history is discussed whether it be in February or not, the topic of slavery becomes the first idea that pops into a person’s head. We do have a rich history and although slavery is the essence of what made so many Black historical figures great, it isn’t the only beginnings that so many of them had. I only have to wonder how the school teachers would respond if it were suggested to talk about the Black kings and queens of the past. They would probably look at you like you were telling a creative story or just plain crazy.

    We homeschool, so we discuss black history as well as the history of other ethnicities during February and even long after the month has past. My February to do list is a little different from yours. I’m just glad that you’re available and knowledgeable enough to be there to make the corrections for your child.

  3. I agree with you so much! I actually really dislike Black History Month. When I taught HS English I incorporated Black History all year long because Black History is American History and Black Lit is American Lit! I cannot stand the limited view that Black History invokes.

  4. HaJ says:

    This article totally bring me back to when my parents you used to come up to my all white private school and constant have to school the teachers who dished out incorrect information about Black history AND Native American history. The trials and tribulations of an Urban Chameleon
    http://homeoftheurbanchameleon.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-urban-chameleon-came-to-be.html

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