Out of a place of desperation, passion and an immense desire to advance the restoration of dignity for an oppressed people, in 1926, Negro History Week was born in the United States. Created by Carter G. Woodson, an American historian known as the Father of Black History, that one week would go on to become Black History Month. The NAACP records that Woodson believed:
“Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in our country. He strongly believed that Black history – which others have tried so diligently to erase – is a firm foundation for young Black Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of our society.”
Birthed on the heels of the abolishment of slavery, Negro History Week was of great importance concerning the advancement of Black People and African Americans in the United States and eventually the world. It not only reminded us of the struggle we’d overcome, but it also gracefully punctuated the power of our very existence. It gave us something to fight for, to live for, which was no small thing given the culture it was birthed out of. At the time of the development of Negro History Week we, as African Americans and Black People, were still under the debilitating weight of a felt and experienced racism. There were Jim Crow state and local segregation laws attempting to shift the racism from an overt physical manifestation to a more psychological but equally debilitating one involving systemic injustices. In other words, though we were no longer slaves, we were still seen and treated as being unworthy, in many cases suffering physical violence if we did not acquiesce appropriately. And it was this reality of the Black experience in America that drove Woodson to inaugurate a celebration for the Black race.
In other words, Black History Month was created in hopes to remind Americans what Christians should be the first to champion: the dignity and worth of a race of people long oppressed. Black History Month is not political, but it is indeed powerful. Its message is something we as Christians should get behind because it is about celebrating our distinctiveness while honoring our shared humanity, something that has not always been historically recognized.
I truly believe, Carter G. Woodson was right. Not only do Black Americans need Black History Month perhaps the world does. Rooted in the Christian ethic of redemption, salvation, and empowerment for all, Black History Month is not just another time to stop and pause, but a global moment to celebrate, reflect and remember as we do the work to usher in His Kingdom come.
From America to South Africa, from Tokyo to London, may the Black race and all races come to know their immense worth in Christ and walk in it like never before.
Happy Black History Month!