Black History Month: Its Growing Significance for Year-round Learning
Black History Month, the aim of which is to increase awareness of the rich legacy as well as the tragedy and triumph of the black experience, is an important springboard for year-round learning on the subject.
“There is no American history without black history. In fact, there is no world history without black history, says Shannen Dee Williams, an associate professor in Villanova’s Department of History. “Yet, for so long and still too often, the lives, labors, and contributions of people of black African descent have been systematically misrepresented or altogether erased from school textbooks, public history sites, and in popular culture. At its core then, Black History Month serves as an annual reminder for us to seek more honest and accurate accountings of the American and human experience by exploring the diverse lives and histories of black people.”
The annual celebration of black history in American life has come a long way since Dr. Carter G. Woodson first established Negro History Week in 1926, according to Williams.
“Black history is no longer exclusively taught or celebrated within African-American communities. In fact, there are few contemporary U.S. institutions, public or private, that fail to offer some black history-related programming during February,” says Williams. “Yet, much remains to be done to ensure that black history is fully incorporated into school curriculums and embedded into our collective understanding of American history.”
The most significant message Black History teaches us is that black history matters, Williams says. “People of black African descent have never been marginal to the story of the United States or the development of human civilization.”
“As a historian, I firmly believe that studying history is an essential component of a quality education. I also believe that possessing an accurate and critical understanding of the past is necessary for a responsible and civically engaged community of people. So, if we don't collectively know black history, we don't know history. And if we don't know our history, we stand to repeat some the worst mistakes of the human past and imperil our future” she concluded.
To speak with Williams, email email@example.com or call 610-519-5152.