The way that America approaches Black History Month is grossly limiting.
In many schools, organizations, workspaces and beyond, the month is distilled to the same whitewashed stories of select civil rights figures and a handful of picture-perfect moments in history. Our history and culture are consistently depicted as one-dimensional.
Carter G. Woodson didn’t create Negro History Week in 1926, which became Black History Month 40 years later, for our stories to be watered down and fictionalized by way of revisionist history. Yet, year after year, we see Rosa Parks described as passive instead of a longtime freedom fighter. We see the accomplishments of figures like Edmonia Lewis, Bayard Rustin and Sojourner Truth go overlooked. We see folks view our timeline as starting at slavery. And when March 1 comes along, we see folks forget again that we, too, are America.
America, though dangerously flawed, wouldn’t have half of the opportunities, liberties and infrastructure it has today had it not been for the backs of black people upon which this country was built. Erasure is a main objective of racism, and it has succeeded when it comes to documenting and celebrating our history. And because our history is American history, erasing the contributions of black Americans makes it impossible to accurately tell the story of this country.
This is why, this February, HuffPost Black Voices is reminding y’all that Black History Built This. All month long, we’ll be celebrating our place in the past, present and future.
We are reclaiming our narrative. Our history is too expansive, beautiful, resilient, joyous, powerful and unique to ever become some cliché social studies lesson plan. We are seldom given proper credit, let alone praise, for how our rich history and culture have not only influenced but also helped construct the basis for what we view as progress today.
All month long, we will bring you stories, video, photos and conversations that amplify our greatness and shine a light on our humanity, starting with “We Built This,” a photo series captured by Kris Graves highlighting a few of the change agents who are making history today, which we will be adding to throughout the month. We will also be sharing stories of doulas, war veterans, musicians, entrepreneurs and many others who deserve praise as the history makers of today’s and future generations. This month’s content isn’t a comprehensive look at our history, but it’s meant to help fill a void left by incomplete textbooks.