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What If We Made Black History Month…Longer?
How a “long Black History Month” would change understanding of the past and our nation
Below is an excerpt from my latest article for CNN Opinion. Read the rest HERE.
Nearly 50 years ago, political leaders thought Black history was so important to the national identity that they quadrupled the time formally set aside for it.
Black History Month began as a single week, Negro History Week, in 1926 with the vision of Carter G. Woodson. In 1976, it expanded to an entire month as a part of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations; since President Gerald Ford, each US president has officially designated February as Black History Month.
When we think of Black history in singular terms—a single test, a single class, a single month—we can miss its deeper meanings. Historians speak of “the long Civil Rights movement” as a way of thinking more carefully about its precursors and lasting effects. Perhaps it is time to think in terms of a “long Black History Month.”
My boss, Simmons College president Kevin W. Cosby, recently inspired me to consider the power of taking Black history beyond the confines of February. He told me, “My Black History Month begins on MLK Day.”
Instantly, his perspective made sense to me. We observe MLK Day nationwide on the third Monday of January. It is one of the most recognized annual traditions related to Black history and the Civil Rights movement. Enormous effort goes into planning MLK Day events each year—speeches, award ceremonies, parades, marches, service opportunities, and more.
Article continues at CNN.