Why You Should Always Read About Black History

By Rylie Young

The Charter Editorials – 04/08/19

To represent history made by African American history, February become Black History Month in the U.S. It is a celebration of achievements and accomplishments made by African Americans— achievements that they’ve made that empowered their culture. However, it is not just about reflecting history, it is also about looking at current issues they face.

While a month to immerse and educate yourself in black history is wonderful— I think we should do this all the time, not just February.

Carter Woodson found that there was a lack of representation and diversity in history books in the early 1900’s. It was almost like they were not a part of the United States at all. Woodson wanted the history of his ancestor’s remembered and invented Black History Week. This week was the second week in February– Woodson who invented it picked it because it included Frederick Douglass’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays.

Photo posted Powell’s Books on their website showing one of the many shelves in their store that displayed Black History books in February. It had the heading “Black History Matters.”

Half a century later, the week was extended to the whole month of February, and it now has been widely embraced by people in the United States. Libraries all over the country put out black history books and reading lists for the month of february.

Even our high school OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) team read books that were relevant in February. Such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, and A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.

“I think it’s great because it certainly gives them [her high schoolers] a picture of what is happening for African Americans. While these books are all fiction, they’re all based in reality. These things are actually happening for African Americans, or actually did happen within the case of A Lesson Before Dying,” says Language Arts teacher and teacher of the High School OBOB team, Meredith Gerstner. She continued, “…I think it gives students the opportunity to see that from kind of a different perspective that isn’t biased by the media in one way or another.. A lot of people automatically think what the media tell us to think and I think these books really gives us a highlight into what those experiences were like for people.”

Gerstner brought up an interesting point, people do automatically think or follow what the media tells us to. This applies in almost every aspect of the media, but particularly in ones of censoring and trends. The media doesn’t always show the full story; even your textbooks don’t give you a full history of your country, which is a reason to research the history of cultures in the U.S. and hear genuine human experiences not portrayed by the media.

Another reason I think it is important to not only look at black history and struggles in February is because it is always relevant. We should not just look at that history because the media tells us to; we should not just want to be well-versed in other cultures simply because it is a trend. Today’s society was shaped by our history and it will always be a part of us. So we should know it, learn from it, and appreciate big achievements even if it’s “in the past.”

“Absolutely, because I really think that as human beings we should know and care about other human beings and I think the fact that some people only decide to read about black people during black history month is really doing a disservice, and I really think that you know that as human beings if we really care then we should try to care about them all the time and not just during a month where we are told to care about them…and I think it is kind of ridiculous that that’s when a lot of people just decide that’s when we’re doing things,” said Gerstner about whether she thinks we should always look at black history.

Sources:

Gerstner, Meredith. Personal Interview. 03/21/19.

Staff, CNN. “Meet the Man Who Created Black History Month.” CNN, Cable News Network, 1 Feb. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/us/history-of-black-history-month-trnd/index.html.

Photo:Thomas, Angie, et al. “On the Come Up – Signed Edition.” Used, New, and Out of Print Books – We Buy and Sell – Powell’s Books, www.powells.com/black-history-month.

“You Can Be Part of The Black History Month Celebration.” Study Breaks, 1 Feb. 2019, studybreaks.com/culture/black-history-month/.