Ben Walton: Black History Month — National African American History Month — is needed in 2014

2014-02-04T00:00:00Z Ben Walton: Black History Month — National African American History Month — is needed in 2014By Ben Walton Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

While doing research for a writing project, I came upon President Obama’s proclamation for African-American History Month 2013. In that announcement the president asked the American public to observe and embrace the history and contributions of African-Americans in the U.S. In addition, Obama called upon public officials, educators, librarians and all the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities.

Less than two weeks later, to my amazement, I saw the disturbing, provocative and startling headline: “Is Black History Month Outdated With Obama’s Re-election as President?” The blog was posted by Kevin Fobbs on Feb. 13, in Civil Rights History News.

In the opening paragraph of his essay, Fobbs said “one could make a solid case for calling a halt to the month of February as an official celebration of the achievements of black Americans, since many of the injustices of the past have died away along with the perpetrators.”

His conclusion was that there was no further need for Black History Month. In his opinion, it had met its original purposes. Furthermore, his judgment was black history was mainstreamed into what it always has been — part of America’s history.

I strongly disagree with Fobbs. Also, I take serious exception with many others who share his position calling for an end to the historical observance. Make no mistake, I recognize that many of those folks are highly respected and well-meaning, such as Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman. Freeman stated, in a 2005 “60 Minutes” interview, that Black History Month was “ridiculous.” Besides, he said during the conversation: “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Notwithstanding Freeman’s thoughts, I submit that National African-American History Month is still relevant. The 28-day commemoration should continue for years to come for the following reasons:

  • To provide opportunities for Americans to increase their awareness of and knowledge about the outstanding achievements and phenomenal contributions of African-Americans to the United States throughout the nation’s annals.
  • To afford time for Americans to come together in celebration of how far the United States has come in civil rights in particular, and race relations in general, and to gain a clear understanding that the U.S. is not there yet. Work remains to be done to achieve important national goals for the good of all the country’s people.
  • To inspire Americans to take actions, individually and collectively, to build solidarity, enhance conditions, improve attitudes, and upgrade environments that will move the United States further ahead so that National African-American History Month, will truly, in fact and spirit, no longer be required.

At that juncture, as the Negro History Week creator, well-known black historian Carter G. Woodson, envisioned more than 80 years ago, the holiday can be eliminated because black history will have become an integral part of American history. Meanwhile, in February 2014, Americans should get involved and go out and celebrate National African-American History Month.

Ben L. Walton, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a freelance writer and Tucson winter visitor. He is the author of two nonfiction books, “Great Black War Fighters: Profiles in Service” and “How to Be a Daily Winner and Feel Really Great!” Contact him at bwalt27789@peoplepc.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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