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Why We Celebrate Black History Month

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Black History Month fills me with a variety of emotions. As an African American, I know about the often-untold experience of African Americans in America. I am not here to paint America’s history with only African American contributions. However, I am here to be honest and share where African American contribution is and continues to be in American history. I am here to remember and celebrate some of the unsung heroes in the African American community. During Black History Month we typically hear about MLK, Rosa Parks and maybe Malcolm X. There are different ways racism has played a role in America’s history. In this case, racism sought to intentionally erase or leave out the accomplishments that African Americans have brought and continue to bring to American society.

In 2024, Kohl's partnered with Emmy-nominated illustrator Erin K. Robinson, also known as Brooklyn Dolly on Instagram, to create a special collection of black history clothing and accessories. On February 1, Dollar Tree held a panel discussion featuring African American trailblazers from within their organization, launched a new Inclusion and Belonging cultural series, and set up a fireside chat on the topic of allyship with executive leaders and associates. 

Expressive social media celebrations, influencers, websites, and black-owned business promotions all point to American culture seemingly sold on Black History Month. But though many Americans presently recognize and celebrate the value of Black History Month, some of us may wonder – what does it mean?  Why do we dedicate time to celebrate this month? For that question to be answered I think it’s important for us to learn about how Black History Month came to be. By learning the original story, I hope that we can learn to appreciate this month and beyond.  

In 1915, in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926, the group declared the second week of February “Negro History Week” to recognize the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Few people studied Black history and it wasn't included in textbooks before the creation of Negro History Week. 

This week was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. Many schools and leaders began recognizing the week after its creation. 

We have come a long way in recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments in Black history. Often during Black History Month, we mention the popular leaders who have contributed to American history. However, I want to introduce you to some other people who you might not have heard of.  I am going to list a few African Americans who have impacted American society in ways that you may not be aware of.  

  • We celebrate Garret Morgan who is responsible for creating the T-shaped traffic signal that featured three positions: Stop, Go, and an all-directional stop position. After witnessing a collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage, Morgan was convinced that something should be done to improve traffic safety.
  • We celebrate Katherine Johnson for helping calculate the trajectory or path of the country’s first human spaceflight in 1961, making sure astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., had a safe trip. A year later she helped figure out John Glenn’s orbit of the planet, another American first.
  • We celebrate Marie van Brittan Brown, a scientist known for creating the first home security system with her spouse, which they obtained in 1969. At the time, the crime rates in her neighborhood were very high and her occupation as a nurse implied long honors and working shifts at different times of the day. Her concept laid the groundwork for modern CCTV security systems and is cited in the 35 U.S. patents.
  • We celebrate Alexander Miles, who is responsible for improving the method of opening and closing elevators. Previously, the opening and closing of the doors of both the shaft and the elevator had to be completed manually by either the elevator operator or by passengers, contributing greatly to the hazards of operating an elevator. Miles attached a flexible belt to the elevator cage, and when it contacted drums along the elevator shaft just above and below the floors, it allowed the elevator shaft doors to operate at the appropriate times. The elevator doors themselves were automated through a series of levers and rollers.

Whether this is your first time learning about these people or not, I hope we can take the time to learn about many other accomplishments of Black people beyond Black History Month. There was a time when Black history was not important, or even intentionally avoided. Now, February is a great time to dive into stories of Black contributions in American history, but it is not the only time we can do this.

Black history is American history.


-Timothy Parker, Transfer Enrollment Specialist




https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Style/black-history-month-2024-stores-celebrating-giving-back/story?id=106800556 ] 

https://www.rila.org/retail-works-for-all-of-us/retail-invests-in-people/retailers-celebrate-black-history ] 






Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Feb 22, 2024

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