Understanding Black History Month

'T Was mercy brought me from my pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there's a God--that there's a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye-- 'Their color is a diabolic dye.' Remember, Christians, Negroes black as Cain May be refined, and join the angelic train. --Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley

Black History Month is not just about celebrating famous Black-Americans. This is a month, set aside, to educate Blacks about their own history. I've heard some non-Blacks ask, "why must there be a Black History Month?" The answer is quite simple, because conventional history texts have historically omitted Black facts.

When growing up, the only references made about Blacks in our high school history books, were about Blacks rioting in the streets during the civil rights movement and giving no explanation as to what the movement was truly about.

There were pictures littered through history texts of, Blacks living in tenements with broken-out windows, bald yards and ripped up couches on the balconies. Or not so charming shots of Blacks living in one room shanties with an out house in the back. Finally, someone had the fore-thought to say enough is enough, "this is not the whole truth of Black history" or being black.

Not many high school history text,[to my recollection] mentioned the educated and well rounded Black-Americans. Nor did they mention that some, who were slaves were geniuses, like Phillis Wheatley -- poet and writer. Others were either born free or freed like, Benjamin Banneker -- a self-taught intellectual or Edward Alexander Bouchet -- physicist, chemist, just to name a few.

Black youths need to know that there were people of their race who found that books and education were a positive aspect of life and not something that poisoned them.

Phillis Wheatley [my favorite historical figure] was captured from the Senegal-Gambia region of Africa when seven years old. When brought to America, she was sold to the Wheatley's. Within sixteen months, after arriving in America, Phillis had learned how to read and write English. She didn't stop there, she also, studied Latin and Greek and became the first Black-American poet. Read More

Benjamin Banneker, taught himself astronomy and was able to accurately predict a solar eclipse in 1789. Read More

Edward Alexander Bouchet was the first Black-American to graduate from Yale (1874).

Benjamin Bradley developed a steam engine for a warship in the 1840s.

David Crosthwait, Jr. held numerous patents relating to heat transfer, ventilation and air conditioning.

The literary world's pages are full of accomplished Black-Americans, not missing a dotted "i" or a crossed "t" to name a few [in no particular alphabetical or chronological order]: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, the list goes on.

Not only does America's Black youth need to understand and embrace Black accomplishments but, the rest of the country does too. The only way is to learn of and learn from Black history. This is why we have Black History Month. Black accomplishments aren't just on the basketball court or the football field or in the recording studio. The world is and can be the Black-American's canvass and our brains are the palettes that create beauty and contributes to mankind's betterment.

Do You Know?

Who invented the traffic light? Yes the one you stop at or run through on the street. Did you say Garret Morgan?

Who invented an important part of the light bulb? Did you say Lewis Latimer [he created the carbon filament]

Who invented an oil dripping cup for trains? Did you say Elijah McCoy? [Other inventors tried to copy McCoy's oil-dripping cup. But none of the other cups worked as well as his, so customers started asking for "the real McCoy." That's where the expression comes from.]

Who invented the ironing board? Did you say Sarah Boone? Read More: list of Black inventors

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