Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

lynching_musuem-1

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo's 'Nkyinkim' sculpture, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade at the entrance of the National Memorial for Peace And Justice on 3rd March 2020 in Montgomery, Alabama, United States. (Photo: Barry Lewis/InPictures via Getty Images)

This Black History Month Its More Important Than Ever to Teach Our History

As politicians ban books and courses, this Black History Month seems especially significant.

Tracey L. Rogers

 by OtherWords

When President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, he urged all Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

The full history of our strength and resilience begins with atrocities like slavery, lynching, segregation, and other acts of violence, and it is our full history that must be remembered.

It's true—Black Americans have excelled "in every area of endeavor," from arts and culture to sports and entertainment to everyday living and thriving in this country.

What's often overlooked in celebrating these accomplishments, however, is the price we've paid to reach our aims. Unbelievable struggles were necessary just to live, work, and vote, never mind to excel.

These accomplishments have mostly been hard won, if not deadly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like others before and since, lost his life in the fight for civil rights.

The late Congressman John Lewis, who marched with King in Selma, will be remembered as a patriot who fought for voting rights. But it took decades of Black voter disenfranchisement and violent attacks on activists—including Lewis himself—before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

Black history has shown that what's been gained can too easily be lost. Even now, Black Americans are still at risk of having their votes suppressed. Some 43 states proposed over 250 laws restricting voting last year alone, most of which disproportionately impacted Black voters.

Meanwhile Black Americans and their achievements continue to be challenged and underrepresented across society—from films and media to colleges and universities.

Affirmative action, designed to eliminate racial inequities in higher education and other institutions, is now under fire. As the conservative Supreme Court hears two cases against policies meant to limit racial biases in colleges and universities, the legacy of Black history is once again in jeopardy.

In today's charged political climate, many white Americans have either forgotten our history or simply chosen not to acknowledge it in its entirety. As politicians and school boards across the nation try to ban teaching "critical race theory" (CRT) in classrooms, this Black History Month seems especially significant—not only for Black Americans, but for white Americans too.

America tends to "whitewash" Black History Month with performative gestures like feel good TV specials and brand campaigns that make our history more convenient and palatable.

But Black History Month isn't just about what we've done for our country—it's about where the resolve to do those things came from. The full history of our strength and resilience begins with atrocities like slavery, lynching, segregation, and other acts of violence, and it is our full history that must be remembered.

These truths make some white Americans uncomfortable—which some would argue is the real reason behind the CRT debate. But if we can't have an honest reckoning about the obstacles white supremacy put in the way of Black Americans, how can we as a country overcome them?

President Biden began his own address on Black History Month this year by saying that it "serves as both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history."  He continued, "Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America—our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations."

As we strive to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive nation, I couldn't agree more.

So, in preparation for a month's worth of tributes honoring Black History, I implore white Americans to learn our entire history and their role in it—the good, the bad, and the ugly—so they can be more aware and better allies.

Now isn't the time to change our curriculum and throw away our books. May we instead "seize the opportunity" to honor Black Americans, as President Ford urged—from past to present.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Tracey L. Rogers

Tracey L. Rogers

Tracey L. Rogers is an entrepreneur and activist living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo