Black History Month comes to a conclusion today. However, the teaching and learning of Black History cannot be limited to the month of February. Black History Month is a time to celebrate the lives of people of African heritage who have built Canada, the U.S., and the world as we know it. It is also a time to focus on making sure that the history of the people of the African Diaspora is not lost in the “white-washing” that can happen when some groups tell the story of history, leaving out other groups.
To some the very notion of Black History Month is controversial. Some very prominent people, such as the esteemed African-American actor Morgan Freeman, argue against having a Black History Month. “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” Freeman asked. He has a point. Black History cannot be meaningfully limited to one month a year, nor can it be separated from American history, our Canadian history, or World history. Black History is History.
For much too long, history has been taught only from the perspective of the dominant groups in society. In Canada that has meant that history was taught only as the story of men. Of whites, (mainly English and Scottish). Of the rich. Of the powerful.
We have taken great strides in identifying that such history is not only overwhelmingly incomplete, it is also profoundly unjust. Yet we still have much to do. Moreover, not only is that journey incomplete, in many places it is going the wrong way. The most obvious examples of this come from the United States, where a radical agenda of curriculum revision and book banning, all in the name of “patriotic education,” is in fact a naked attempt at denying the racist history of that nation, and the ways that racism is still alive in the institutions of today.
This suggests that Black History Month is still very relevant indeed.
On a person’s birthday we take the day to celebrate that person in a special way. Yet that does not mean we ignore them the other 364 days of the year. Let’s commit considering how that approach may apply to Black History Month.
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