by Ilvea Lezama
Ever since we were kids
, we have known that February has been a celebration for Black History annually. A celebration to recognize the contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States. Black History Month was conceived by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week in 1926. This evolved into a month-long celebration that started at Kent State University in February 1970.
February also coincides with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, the well-known African American abolitionist, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. They both contributed immensely to abolishing slavery.
Professors Timothy Kirk and Professor Andrew Jackson of the History, Philosophy and Anthropology department both expressed that there is not enough integration of Black history in grades K-12 curricula. As a result, some students don’t find out how Black people contributed and are still contributing to U.S. history until they reach college.
Kirk said he is still learning more and more each day about black studies to “understand my students, colleagues, my department of black studies and myself.”
Many have asked whether February is enough to celebrate Black history. Professor Jackson personally believes that Black History Month should not be limited to one month, especially not the year’s shortest month. However, he stated that he would switch Black History Month to September if he had the power.
The school year would then begin “with this golden opportunity to include black history into our conversations and lessons instead of in the middle of the term with the fewest days,” Jackson said.
York College journalism majors agreed that giving black history the “honor” of the shortest month in the year seemed disrespectful.
“It’s a time where Black accomplishments are recognized and celebrated from Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, the godmother of Rock and Roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the first black mayor of Boston, to Halle Berry becoming the first black woman to win an Oscar but I also think of the people that history has forgotten about,” said Journalism major Sierra Ryan.
Like so many other York students, Ryan and others found this year’s Black History Month to be especially moving given the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the global reckoning with racism that ensued.
“This month has proven how much more powerful we are as a whole; it shows the love we all have for each other,” Journalism major Wensky Marseille said. “I believe this month is all about growing together as a whole and understanding what we as black people went through; when I think Black history month, I think of the powerful leaders us Black people had like Martin Luther King.