History

5 Reasons You Should Celebrate Black History Month

Jemar Tisby

February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month. Each year Americans set aside a few weeks to focus their historical hindsight on the contributions that people of African descent have made to this country. While not everyone agrees Black History Month is a good thing, there are several reasons why I think it’s appropriate to celebrate this occasion.

The History of Black History Month

First, let’s briefly recount the advent of Black History Month. Also called African-American History Month, this event originally began as Negro History Week in 1926. It took place during the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian is credited with the creation of Negro History Week.

In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week into a full month. He said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Objections to Black History Month

Black History Month has been the subject of criticism from both Blacks and people of other races. Some argue it is unfair to devote an entire month to a single people group. Others contend that we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year. Setting aside only one month, they say, gives people license to neglect this past for the other 11 months.

Despite the objections, though, I believe some good can come from devoting a season to remembering a people who have made priceless deposits into the account of our nation’s history. Here are five reasons why we should celebrate Black History Month.

1. Celebrating Honors the Historic Leaders of the Black Community

I had the privilege of living in Jackson, Mississippi which is the site of many significant events in Black History. I once heard Myrlie Evers, the wife of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, speak at the Governor’s Prayer Luncheon. It’s common to see James Meredith, the first African American student at Ole Miss, in local churches or at community events.

Heroes like these and much more deserve to be honored for the sacrifice and suffering they endured for the sake of racial equality. Celebrating Black History Month allows us to pause and remember their stories, so we can commemorate their achievements.

2. Celebrating Helps Us to Be Better Stewards of the Privileges We’ve Gained 

Several years spent teaching middle school students impaled me with the reality that if we don’t tell the old, old stories, then the next generation, and we ourselves, will forget them. It pained me to have to explain the significance of the Harlem Renaissance and the Tuskegee Airmen to children who had never learned of such events, and the men and women who took part in them.

To what would surely be the lament of many historic African American leaders, my students and so many others (including me) take for granted the rights that many people before them sweated, bled, and died to secure. Apart from an awareness of the past, we can never appreciate the blessings we enjoy in the present.

3. Celebrating Provides an Opportunity to Highlight the Best of Black History & Culture 

All too often, only the most negative aspects of African American culture and communities get highlighted. We hear about the poverty rates, incarceration rates, and high school drop out rates. We are inundated with images of unruly athletes and raunchy reality TV stars as paradigms of success for Black people. And we are daily subject to unfair stereotypes and assumptions from a culture that is, in some aspects, still learning to accept us.

Black History Month provides the chance to focus on different aspects of our narrative as African Americans. We can applaud Madam C.J. Walker as the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. We can let our eyes flit across the verses of poetry Phyllis Wheatley, the first African American poet and woman to publish a book. And we can groove to soulful jazz and somber blues music composed by the likes of Miles Davis and Robert Johnson. Black History Month spurs us to seek out and lift up the best in African American accomplishments.

4. Celebrating Creates Awareness for All People

I recall my 8th-grade history textbook where little more than a page was devoted to the Civil Rights Movement. I remember my shock as a Christian to learn about the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, because in all my years in churches and Christian schools, no one had ever mentioned it.

Unfortunately, it seems that apart from an intentional effort otherwise, Black history is often lost in the mists of time. When we observe Black History Month, we give citizens of all races the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which they may have little awareness.

5. Celebrating Reminds Us All that Black History Is OUR History 

It pains me to see people overlooking Black History Month because Black history (just like Hispanic, Asian, European, and Native history) belongs to all of us — black and white, men and women, young and old. The impact African Americans have made on this country is part of our collective consciousness. Contemplating Black history draws people of every race into the grand and diverse story of this nation.

Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month

As a believer, I see racial and ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s manifold beauty. No single race or its culture can comprehensively display the infinite glory of God’s image, so he gave us our differences to help us appreciate his splendor from various perspectives.

God’s common and special grace even work themselves out in the providential movement of a particular race’s culture and history. We can look back on the brightest and darkest moments of our past and see God at work. He’s weaving an intricate tapestry of events that climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And one day Christ will return. And on that day, we will all look back at the history — not just of a single race but of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue — and see that our Creator had a plan all along. He is writing a story that points to his glory, and in the new creation, his people won’t have a month set aside to remember his greatness. We’ll have all eternity.

To begin learning more about Black History Month and Black achievers, click on any of the links above and visit these sites:

African American History Month 

Black History Month- Wikipedia Entry

Biography.com- Black History Videos

30 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Should Celebrate Black History Month

  1. Aidan

    hi, we need black history
    People are Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver, Barack Obama, Madam C.J. Walker, astronaut Mae C. Jemison, open-heart surgeon Daniel Hale Williams, inventor Garret Morgan, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and “Father of Black History” Carter G. Woodson.

  2. brandon clark

    thanks very helpful for my article

  3. JOSH

    Agreed, 5 reasons not to celebrate? Black history should be highlighted all year long like the rest of history. 2) it furthers black segregation. 3) its perpetuating hero worship 4) radical islam and Christianity use black history month as recruitment when neither are truly black cultures 5) its important to realize we are all special. What race we are doesnt define who you are. Be proud of everyones accomplishments for what they are not by the color of who they are…

  4. Julie Howard

    Appreciate your thoughts on importance of remembering and sharing history generation to generation less it be lost.
    No question we should recognizance honor Black History every month but no question in my mind that in February he celebration brings all eyes to the achievements to America from the Black Community.

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  14. Justine

    Jay what a question?

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    Thanks, it’s very informative

  16. Jay

    We do not need an America Month. We have an America Year. Each and every year is America year. By the way, when you say “the Greatest Country”, what criteria are you using? Do you equate ‘Greatness’ with ‘Power’? Is that your standard? Wealth? Is that your “Greatness”? Exactly what are you talking about?

    If you were to use your weighing scale alongside Jesus using His would they balance the same?

  17. WIlliam Flowers

    Amen!! We should Have America Month and Honor all Americans and their contributions That makes This Country The Greatest Country Country and most Blessed on The Face of This Earth Giving God The Glory in The Mighty Name of Jesus Amen??

  18. Gavin

    I love it when there is no other month BUT black history month ok fair Josh so really ask yourself is every other month just to celebrate whites wake up call it’s not

  19. Jessica Biel

    The whole February is the month to focus on the historical achievements of black people. Black History Month is celebrated each year and it has an impact to this country. Its not a month to create difference with the people in terms of looks. Encourage each other, as everyone is contributing.

  20. Kyra

    This is very very helpful in writing an essay only one para but it is very helpful for my short essay! thank you!

  21. Joshua

    Black culture, is not African culture, is an uniquely American occurrence. We don’t have African history month. We should have a Native American month, maybe even a Hispanic month. We have White history month every month. Come on Chris…

  22. Monique

    @Rajun Cajun Most of human history is not “Christian”, so its not important anymore? If so then I need to quite my day job because their is not use of me teaching any history that’s not Christian. But my God is sovereign , so all of history is His. I’ve taken classes on Latin American Anthropology and History. Was I wrong because it wasn’t all focused on gospel music and the bible and just on one group alone? Am I wrong to teach about the Islamic Empire because they are not Christian focused? Why is it wrong to learn about all kinds of people and ways of thinking. Wouldn’t it make you a better witness of the gospel? I just don’t see it the way you do.

  23. Monique

    @CHRIS There is a Hispanic Heritage month and Native American Heritage Month and an Asian American Heritage Month as well as Pacific Islander heritage month. My college celebrated them all.

  24. Rajun Cajun

    I don’t know exactly how I feel about this. Being black, raised in “black” culture, and having graduated from a HBCU I was saturated with black history. However, as I have grown in Christ I no longer think it is appropriate for me to celebrate black history month. My main reason is because a large majority of the individuals that are celebrated are not Christians and it is very hard for me to honor children of the Devil. Furthermore, the black history celebrations by and large are not Gospel (i.e. the Bible not gospel music) centered. They are mostly focused on the same annual reflections of where the black community is, has come from, and where we’re going. They are mostly behavior oriented versus heart oriented. The problem in our community and the human race at large is a sin/heart issue. Until we address that it always be “Lift Every Voice and Sing” vs. “How Great Tho’ Art”.

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  26. Chris

    why don’t we have a hispanic month a asian month a white month or a native American month why only celebrate one race?

  27. rewan

    hi. no offence, but whats with the “Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month” thing? I mean people can be black and Christian right!? just clear this up for me pleasee

  28. rewan

    hi. no offence, but whats with the “Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month” thing? I mean people can be black and Christian right!? just clear this up for me please

  29. Jemar Tisby

    Lisa,

    Your words are much appreciated. We hope RAAN produces content not just for African Americans but for people of any race and nationality who, like you, desire to learn more about brothers and sisters who differ from them.

    Thanks for reading, and let others who may be curious know what you’ve discovered!

  30. Lisa Fogelman

    I agree that we should educate ourselves with every nation and culture so we can learn our differences and appreciate each other for the uniqueness God created in all of us. I am a white female that was raised in white suburbia and I think I have missed a lot. Friendships and relationships that I did not have with people different from me. I am reading your blog, and Natasha Robinson’s blog to find out what black Americans think and feel living in America. I prayed to God for many years that I would love people like Jesus loves people. He has been answering this prayer for the last three years and part of that is to learn more about people different than me in race, culture and nationality. I want to make friends with black ladies not for a project but just because I know I have been missing out on relationships in the body of Christ. I hope I don’t sound hokey. I just want to be able love like Jesus so his name would be glorified. So his kingdom will grow, so people see him and not me.

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