When I was growing up in East Tennessee in the 1940s and 1950s, we celebrated Negro History Week. In those days, the segregated public school curriculum didn’t include a study of the African slaves and the contributions they and their descendants made in the building of the United States. So, we had good reason to study the lives of great Negroes and the contributions they made to the nation.
However, we actually studied Negro history the entire year, reciting poetry and performing plays and reading stories. The difference was, during negro history week, each student had to select one Negro hero or heroine and write a paper on him or her.
To put it simply, in those days, the White historians and the White school officials not only didnt’’t see us but did not consider us to be a part of the American heritage, just as today those folks talked about preserving their southern heritage conveniently leave out the Black faces. In their concept of that heritage, slavery never occurred and Jim Crow was the name of some Native American.
Black History month can and should be used to correct this blind spot in the minds of those trying to preserve their southern heritage. The problem, of course, is they don’t read the books or watch the TV programs during Black History month. Nevertheless, we must keep trying to educate them.
I partially agree with Morgan Freeman that Black history is a part of American history.