Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Black History Month And People's History

  • Launched Negro History Week in 1926, chosen in the second week of February between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, which evolved into Black History Month in 1976
  • Known for writing the contributions of black Americans into the national spotlight, received a Ph.D at Harvard University
  • Founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915, founded the Journal of Negro History in 1916
  • Author of the book, "The Miseducation of the Negro", published in 1933

"As another has well said, to handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless is the worst sort of lynching."
-- Carter G. Woodson
"The accounts of the successful strivings of Negroes for enlightenment under most adverse circumstances reads like beautiful romances of a people in an heroic age."
-- Carter G. Woodson

Listen up. Today, the daddy is feeling Black History Month, which is drawing to a close. Specifically, he's thinking that highlighting contributions of African Americans to American history and world civilization should continue.

Historically, we've been conditioned to feel that we made few contributions to society and where we have it was due not to African Americans and folks, female and male, who supported them but some fat white guy from above, usually a president (e.g. Abraham Lincoln or Lyndon Johnson). Little is said about how African Americans such as Frederick Douglass pushed Lincoln or how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pushed Johnson by holding marches that embarrassed his administration and America in the eyes of the world-- how it showed America as a nation that professed equality and liberty for all while beating down African Americans with the nerve to demand the right to vote and be treated like any other American human being.

But there is a broader point to be made here: Americans in general don't know their history, especially from people's, or working people's, point of view: history from the ground up by women and men of all races or ethnicities. Unfortunately, in America, history was written largely by upper class males in their image and values with the predictable outcome that it was a history of, by and for white males, usually hypocritical land and slave owners-- people who wrote lofty words about equality and justice as their slaves out back in the fields worked from "sun up to sun down," from "kin to kan't" every day but Sunday. By highlighting black contributions, hopefully it will spur other Americans to take a new look at their own history both as a "race" and as Americans.

Much has been made of the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln's emancipation proclamation and his efforts to move America toward a equality of opportunity in real life. America's new president, Barack Obama, hails Lincoln as the model he emulates in the oval office. But rarely do we note the horrendous efforts of Andrew Jackson to tear down the gains made by black Americans during the period of reconstruction, efforts that allowed supposedly defeated white southern plantation owners to develop a new southern government and erect Jim Crow laws that essentially placed blacks back into slavery. Nor is there much said of other U.S. presidents who treated African Americans as little more than property or, for that matter, working Americans in general, as little more than day laborers, a status just above indentured servitued with little more than minimum wage and even less rights. And let's not even get started about the genocide perpetrated against Native Americans here on their own land. And how can we forget the treatment of women, who were not allowed to vote until the early 20th centry. The point here is that, if we don't know our history from a people's perspective (as opposed to a class, male-centered perspective), we become vulnerable to others' current interpretation of society and act in ways that is not in our interest. Instead of fighting those who oppress and exploit us all, we end up fighting each other.

Hopefully, the study of black history will spur others to study their history to see where their history also intersects with the history of others: to fathom how all of us have contributed to this country as well as how, at certain points, how we have worked with each other to affect change in our (people's) as well as against each other to forestall such change in this grand experiment we call the United States of America.


Anonymous said...

Great series, daddy.didn't know Woodson is such a great historian. I thought he just did black history month.

rainywalker said...

Your story of Black History month has been a learning experience. Having a small amount of knowledge about military history has shown me the contributions blacks have played in history going back some 4000 years. The black youth of this country and world can be proud of what they have achieved under less than favorable conditions and treatment by the military. Many of these blacks accomplished feats and heroism that is unparalleled in history. Thank you for your piece of the emerging puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you should have this blog as a college course. Thanks -- lots of information to take in!

Stella said...

What anonymous said. I wish someday you get a book deal for your amazing insights and deep knowledge of history.

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Nice exit choice. Just the title, The Mis-education of the Negro, makes one stop and think.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, What a great series of posts you've done, but don't stop now just because the day changes!
Woodson is another great So. Appalachian scholar.
When he was growing up he would go to the union hall and read the newspaper to the miners who couldn't read. That always defined the kind of man I envisioned him being.

Nun in the Hood said...

Good Morning, MacDaddy,
I just read the comments thus far, and most concur with me that this series would make a great book!!!This piece could be the introductory one.....
& I agree that we white folks do not know our history....I am a combo of French, Norwegian, German and Irish and I don't know dittle!! At least I could not even write a series that would begin to compare with yours! I'm ashamed to say that, but it's the truth....

MacDaddy said...

Anon: There are many great black historians--John Hope Franklin, Leronne Bennett, Rayford Logan, to give just a few examples. But Dr. Woodson laid the foundation here in the U.S. and set a high standard for scholarly research. Because of the high standard he set, others historians who came after him like the great John Henrik Clarke may have been strong political activists as well, but they knew they had to do quality research as well.

Rainy: Unlike you, I know little military history. I have a friends (Vietnam vets) who are schooling every Sunday. I'm learning.

Stella: Thanks

Kit: It's funny you should bring up the book "Miseducation of the Negro." It's not just informative. It's a fascinating, easy read. Everything it said in 1933 applies to today. He didn't just criticize whites. He criticized black colleges for imitating white schools and thereby miseducating their own people as well.

Sagacious: Great story. No, I won't stop now. I'm a strong student of black history, which is nothing but the missing pages of world history.

Nuninthehood: It's kind of funny, but I have several white friends who said they resented me talking about black history. After I confronted them on it, the truth came out that they resented me for knowing quite a bit about my history, when they knew so little about their own. Everyone should know their history.

Christopher said...

It seems to me that the collection and the depth of Black History continues to grow, as personal stories and legacies are recorded then, taught.

This is very powerful for all Americans but I think particularly, to young, African American kids.

Jay said...

Dr. King Deserves Better in Charlotte, NC!

SjP said...

Much obliged for this post and providing a historical reference to why we celebrate BHM in February.

With respect to honest Abe, well I'm still trying to get my arms around the idea of him being his presidential role model. The only way that it fits for me is knowing that Lincoln's one and only goal was to preserve the Union. So, I have to believe that Obama holds Lincoln up as a presidential role model inspite of his feelings about "the Negro" in general.

But, Andrew Jackson! Well that's another story. It has been said that the only President to break more treaties between the US and Native Americans was Ronald Reagan.

You are absolutely correct - we must know our history. We must know history so that others cannot tell us the abridged version.

Great Post!

MacDaddy said...

Jay: You've come on this blog 4 times already saying the same thing, something not remotely related to the posts. You've made your point. Don't come on this blog again, unless you're going to say something related to the post. Thanks.

MountainLaurel said...

Have you heard of Woodson's sister Bessie Woodson Yancey? She lived in Huntington WV and was a prolific writer. I'm planning on a post about her shortly. Fascinating woman!

MacDaddy said...

Mountain: I never heard of her. I would love to read more about her. If you do a post on her, I'll see it and comment on it. Thanks.