Pull Back the CoversPosted February 26th, 2015 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
Sharon Morgan originally posted this on Our Black Ancestry:
Black History Month 2015 is almost over. As I do every year, I spent the past few weeks gorging myself on the glut of special programming on TV – feature films, documentaries, and other programs with African American themes. I glued myself to the television to watch a marathon of “Many Rivers to Cross,” the Dr. Henry Louis Gates special on PBS that examined the history of African Americans from slavery through the election of President Barack Obama. I also watched the NAACP Image Awards, which recognizes films and programs that are largely ignored by institutions like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
As a genealogist, I am steeped in history ALL the time…. every day… all year long. It is clear to me that history is a continuum; a confluence of historical events that inform the contemporary society in which we live. American history is indelibly marked by the experiences of African Americans, who were essential to building “the greatest country in the world.” I am appalled that that FACT continues to be ignored in every month BUT February. As my Uncle Louie used to say: “History is HIS-story” because the victor writes the books. The winners in the historic tableau rarely give voice to the victims of their inglorious achievements.
We are living in times when the wealth gap between black and white Americans is at incredible levels. Poverty rates for African Americans are 169 percent higher. Unemployment rates for black people between the ages of 16-24 exceeds 21 percent. African Americans are incarcerated at 10 times the rate for whites. Seventy-six unarmed black people were killed by police from 1999-2014.
How did this that happen? Aside from many other reasons — HISTORY stands out as #1. Why? Because America is built on a foundation of genocide and slavery that made certain people less than human, not entitled to respect, and certainly not deserving of more than 28 days of recognition.
Although black people have been in America since the 16th century, “it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.” When Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of slaves who earned a doctorate at Harvard University, first promoted the creation of “Black History Week” in 1926, he was “disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population — and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.”
At that time, there was SO MUCH we – African Americans — did not know (forget about the white people, who I think KNEW but didn’t want to TELL). The things we DID know were that black people were being segregated, terrorized and lynched. We were in the midst of a Great Migration that moved more than five million black people from the South of our enslavement to the “promised land” of the North.
As a black person, Black History Month holds meaning for me because it gives us (black people) a segregated period of time in which to FOCUS on the bridges that brought us over – the past that made us who we are. If I were a conscious white person, it would be even more important. I would WANT to know what my ancestors did that brought us to a place where the first African American president could so viciously maligned in spite of his historic successes as Americans (white) jumped from Selma to post racial… with no steps in between… a time when black people (especially children) could be shot down in the streets without censure of law.
This clip from 2014 by one of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Joy DeGruy, says it all. She wrote the foreword to my book (Gather at the Table) and has written/presented extensively about the legacy of slavery that inflicted us with “post traumatic slave syndrome.” As she says, the goal SHOULD BE to infuse the TRUE history of America into school curricula. Of course, we know the Texas State School Board (which de facto controls the content of school books for American children) will squash that idea. After all, they question Darwin’s theory of evolution, preach abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control, and want slavery written out of text books
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