The origins of Black History Month go back to nearly a century ago. For it was Harvard historian, Carter G. Woodson who initiated Black History Week back in February of 1926. By 1969 Black educators at Kent State proposed the idea of Black History Month, and within a year the inaugation of Black History Month was celebrated in February 1970. For the next several years Black History Month was gradually celebrated amongst educational and cultural institutions and centers of Black culture nationwide. President Gerald Ford made it official in 1976 by recognizing it as part of The Bicentennial celebration of that year.
It was also in ’76 that Black History became the central most import factor of all things historical for me. I had the first of a few educators of color, when I was assigned Miss Terry and her intense Black Studies class. Miss Terry was a stern, no nonsense instructor. Her delivery, diction and teaching style was downright scholarly. Had it not been for the subject matter, I would have easily caught a few z’s. But she had a particular way of drawing you in, especially when she was excited about the the topic. In prior history classes we barely scratched the surface with the obligatory Black history syllabus: Slavery, Reconstruction, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Jim Crow and The Civil Rights Movement. Miss Terry took Black history to another level, and in doing so, she not only ignited an interest in history, but she filled us Black students with cultural pride! I still remember when we covered the origins of Jazz, the introduction of Black writers and poets. Notably Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, which led to my personal favorite, The Harlem Renaissance. My creative juices flowed, and I spent many hours after school in the local library devouring any info I could find about this dynamic era. The artists, poets, writers, music, fashion, entertainers! I recognized in that moment the genesis of a complete, genuine love of Black creatives was born, and still brings me unparalleled joy all these years later.
A cultural history cannot be relegated to just one short month in February. History, and especially Black History happens almost daily. In 2021 it is almost unbelievable to hear, first Black____ (fill in the blank)! Over the years, through my curiosity and vested interest, I have acquired a well of knowledge about the history of my people. Information that was not afforded to me in any institution of learning during my formative years. Each one, should teach one. So I am beyond delighted to share information that I feel should be more common knowledge. And now as a contributing editor to this forum, in the spirt of Miss Terry, may the passion in my delivery, ignite a fire of joy in you as well.
Our newest Contributing Writer Princess Diandra is a New York City-based entertainer and vibrant globetrotting raconteur. She has a passion for culture, cuisine, and history. Particularly the Black contribution to history.