Every February, Black History Month is observed across the United States. First originated in the early 1920’s, it was celebrated during the second week of February to include the birthdays of the two most accomplished civil rights activists to that point: former president Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
February also marked several other milestones in black history. For example, the fifteenth amendment which granted blacks the right to vote, was passed on Feb. 3, 1870, and Hiram R. Revels, the first black senator, was sworn into office on Feb. 25, 1870.
This celebration came at a time when Ivory Tower intellectuals had published very little work on populist struggles, especially the black struggle. Most history books would only refer to the African-Americans’ low social status despite their freedom.
Black history is a subject that rises in leaps and bounds from the abyss of oppression. Since their freedom from state-institute slavery, blacks have had to fight against privatized slavery.
Not only that, but the struggle against state-instituted inequality in schools and restaurants also continued.
This affected all aspects of American life, from Jackie Robinson breaking the racial barrier in Major League Baseball during the 1940’s, to the Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech that shook the foundations of private inequality and the government’s tacit support.
Black History Month is a time to embrace and celebrate aspects of African-American culture, such as its writers, poets, and musicians. It is a celebration of a flourishing artistic history found in periods such as the Harlem Renaissance.
Recognition of the month is often done with young people in mind, particularly in elementary and middle schools. In this situation, all types of young students learn about the struggles and accomplishments of African-Americans throughout history.
The celebration has now grown to a nation-wide scale, in which all people reflect upon the journey of blacks towards a fairer society.
It is a reflection of civil rights in which politicians, entertainers and academia all comment on the past, present and future of black society.
This year February is particularly important, with the election of a black president symbolizing the great strides and accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement as well as a taste of what the future holds. The new president’s administration is not only a symbol, but also a real-life situation which will allow blacks and other races as well to achieve greater equality.
In recognition of this month-long event, Tech’s School of History, Technology and Society has invited Douglas A. Blackmon, author of Slavery By Another Name to host a lecture pertaining to the enslavement of African Americans from the Civil War to World War II on Thursday, Feb. 12 in the Ferst Room in the Tech Library. Blackmon’s work covers the indentured servitude that African-Americans were forced to undergo long after slavery had ended.
His work covers the primary sources depicting slaves and their descendants from the ante- and post-bellum eras of American history as well as the untold stories of human labor trafficking and brutal exploitation from corporate capitalism until the Second World War.
Blackmon will also be covering the nature of race and politics in the South including contemporary corporate exploitation of black laborers.
This celebration is an important time to remember oppression and consequences that follow unjust actions. It is also important for recognizing the oppression that continues today and the people who fight against it.