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Black History Month
A Look Back

Black History Month
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. (by )
  • My Bondage and My Freedom (by )
  • Mule Bone a Comedy of Negro Life (by )
  • The Poetry of the Negro 1746 1949 (by )
  • The Journal of Negro History (by )
  • Narrative Tive of the Life of Frederick ... (by )
  • Passing (by )
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Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February and the United Kingdom.

The Black Unicorn
The Black Unicorn

May I never remember reasons

for my spirit’s safety

may I never forget

the warning of my woman’s flesh

weeping at the new moon

may I never lose

that terror

that keeps me brave

May I owe nothing

that I cannot repay.

Audre Lord, “Solstice”, The Black Unicorn, 1978.

Lorde is channeling here, among other things, a very personal yet simultaneously universal exhortation to not lose one’s history, especially if it is a history of hardship. There is great power in knowing where you come from; in knowing how to face the brutal reality of your own history as well as your country’s history. It is very similar to understanding the distinction between knowing of a cliche, and knowing and understanding the story from which the cliche has sprung. This comprehension is the muscle of history, the conviction and philosophy behind words and actions that are the grounding for meaningful existence, and the fail-safe against regressing into mistakes of the past.

Negro History Week
Negro History Week

Yet, there was a time when mainstream American education meant to make its people forget their own history. 

Dr. Carter Goodwin Woodson—the founder of Negro History Week which later became Black History Month—once said, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Dr. Woodson was a major proponent for self-reliance and the independent thinking of blacks in America. Much of his work in his writing and activism, focused on efforts to solidify black history and tradition in the American psyche and especially in its schools which excluded their history from the curriculum. It was a school system that either denied, ignored, or downplayed America’s history of inhumanity towards African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, and various other groups of minorities during times of war or colonization.

It is extremely important for every country to preserve their history as it was, and not as one might imagine it to be. Ignorance breeds repetition, stagnation, and anger due to a lack of agency. Real agency and power is only granted to those who are educated. 

In celebration of Black History Month, let’s rediscover the autobiographies of some of the great black biographies throughout history, including Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs, and The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass.

By Thad Higa

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