April 20, 2024

Do you know that Black Historical past Month was as soon as Negro Historical past Week? The primary Negro Historical past Week was established on February 7, 1926, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to get a Ph.D. in historical past after Dr. W.E.B. DuBois earned one in 1895. Woodson mentioned that almost all historical past books “neglected, ignored, and even suppressed the accomplishments of Black folks.” 

Woodson was each a visionary and an uncommon tutorial, having labored on farms and in mines earlier than starting highschool at age 20. He based the Affiliation on the Research of African American Life and Tradition in 1915. He picked the second week of February for Negro Historical past Week as a result of it included each President Abraham Lincoln’s February 12 birthday and abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ chosen February 14 birthday. (Douglass didn’t know when his precise birthday was as a result of his beginning was recorded in a property ledger indicating solely that he was born in February. His beginning was recorded in a listing of horses, cattle and plowing instruments. As a result of enslaved folks weren’t thought to be human, the date of their beginning was of much less consequence than their value.) 

Through the Nineteen Sixties, Negro Historical past Week developed into Black Historical past Month, and President Gerald Ford was the primary President to difficulty a proclamation proclaiming February as Black Historical past Month in 1976, our nation’s Bicentennial yr. Ford’s proclamation urged People to “seize the chance to honor the too usually uncared for accomplishments of Black People in each space of endeavor all through our historical past. Since then, each President has issued a Black Historical past Month proclamation. On January 31 of this yr, President Biden mentioned, “I’m reminded of one thing Amelia Boynton mentioned when reflecting on her march throughout the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what could be often called Bloody Sunday: “You possibly can by no means know the place you’re going until the place you’ve been.” 

America is a good Nation as a result of we select to be taught the nice, the unhealthy, and the total fact of the historical past of our nation — histories and truths that we should protect and shield for the subsequent era. This Nationwide Black Historical past Month, as we keep in mind the place we now have been, could we additionally acknowledge that our solely means ahead is by marching collectively. 

Do we actually march collectively? Forty-four states have launched laws to limit the methods race issues are taught, involved that white college students is likely to be “indoctrinated” to “hate” our nation. Why does the reality harm so many a lot? Enslavement occurred, and it has had an affect on up to date life. Too few are prepared to think about methods to handle and restore ugly features of our historical past, maybe via reparation, restitution, and reconciliation. As a substitute, many wish to run and conceal from our historical past. 

The Jesuits at St. Louis College are amongst those that are operating and hiding. They commissioned a examine to point out their relationship to enslavement. They acknowledged that as many as 16 enslaved folks have been compelled to stroll from Maryland to St. Louis to domesticate a farm to assist a Jesuit mission (sarcastically to “civilize” Indians). Now, researchers have recognized greater than 200 survivors from these enslaved folks. The College of Connecticut’s Dr. Thomas Craemer calculated the worth of stolen labor as between $361 million and $70 billion. The college, to date, has been silent about what it owes and what it plans to do about it. They need to take a web page from the guide of one other Jesuit College, D.C.’s Georgetown. The treatment they’ve begun to implement has been inadequate, however it’s a treatment nonetheless. 

Lawyer Areva Martin, retained by the Descendants of the St. Louis College Enslaved (DSLUE), has labored intently with Robin Prudie, the founding father of the non-profit group (dsule.org), wonders why the college would go to the difficulty of documenting their troubled historical past with out doing something about it. 

Black Historical past Month is a chance to rejoice African American triumphs and accomplishments, and it is usually a chance to handle among the structural inequities inherent in our system. We’ve a crushing wealth hole that could be a perform of the methods Black folks have been handled all through historical past. We might be remiss if, in celebrating, we have been silent about this historical past of enslavement, exploitation and oppression. 

St. Louis isn’t distinctive in utilizing slave labor as the inspiration for its thriving enterprise. There could be no White Home, Capitol buildings, or perhaps a Wall Avenue with out the contribution of the enslaved. Have a good time Black Historical past Month however make it plain. Black Historical past Month celebrations remind us that Black folks are due greater than Presidential proclamations. We’re due financial justice! 

Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a former faculty president, is an economist, writer, and commentator. [email protected].