CHRIS MOORE — Learning about Black history should not be limited to a month

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, February 23, 2022

When I was in college, my United States History classes were broken down into two courses. We had one semester to learn about the country from the Revolutionary War up to Reconstruction, and the second course went from Reconstruction up to present day.

That was roughly six months dedicated to nearly 250 years of history, and that amount of time allowed us to only scratch the surface of many important events and figures that shaped the nation.

Black History Month started as a week back in the early 1900s as away to celebrate historical figures and movements.

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Over the decades, colleges began celebrating the entire month before President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976.

The movement was largely established due to the lack of time spent in classrooms learning about Black leaders and events that impacted Black communities.

Unfortunately, since the national recognition of the month, we have seemed to limit our learning of such events to that one month, if we learn any at all. In Indiana, an elementary school reportedly allowed parents to opt out of lessons surrounding the month.

After a picture of the permission slip circulated online, the school responded by saying they do not allow parents to opt out of lessons.

Many would agree that is too far, but how much do students actually learn during the month. With so little time, we tend to regurgitate the same three or four figures and boil down their message to something so unthreatening that most students just know that Martin Lutheran King Jr. had a dream and wanted people to be treated equally.

Most people don’t remember or learn this part of the speech:

“But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.”

At the time, research polls showed that a vast majority of white Americans thought King was asking for too much and believed that life was fairly equal for both races.

Polls today show a similar belief even as protests break out in streets.

The necessity to learn about Black history is not to simply understand the achievements of certain people and movements. It is also to understand where we are in a historical context.

I was an adult before I learned about the Beaumont Race Riot of 1943. I grew up in Beaumont and had to learn about it on the internet.

As March nears, remember to not limit your time of learning to one month.

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.