The essence of Black History Month

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has come and gone, and February is quickly approaching. Posters of Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson will soon appear in celebration of Black History Month.

As children, many of us may remember our teachers telling us stories about Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X each February. Documentaries, guest speakers and special exhibits were all standard features during this special month.

For hundreds of years, African-Americans have contributed significantly to the establishment and improvement of the United States. Every February, Americans commemorate Black History Month by recognizing and celebrating the men and women who sacrificed their lives to stand up to injustices or who were able to achieve great things against all odds.

I think Black History Month is important to American culture because it honors our history and educates all Americans on the struggles many people had to endure.

Black History Month was created in the 1970s to encourage Americans to reflect upon the many contributions made by African-Americans, such as Lewis Latimer, who invented the carbon filament in the light bulb; Garrett Morgan, who invented the first traffic signal and the gas mask; and Sidney Poitier, the first African-American to win an Academy Award.

We devote a month to clearing up misunderstandings, educating others on misconceptions and breaking stereotypes. The richness of the nation’s diversity is what makes it strong. Black History Month enables everyone interested in this country’s origins and culture to better appreciate it by understanding the rich history, strength, and genius of those that make up this country.

Some people think that Black History Month, along with other months that celebrate diversity — such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — isn’t necessary. They believe that America has come a long way and that these months serve no purpose but to divide an already polarized nation.

They are wrong. A decade into the 21st century and four years after electing the first biracial president, this recognition and celebration continues to be necessary and important. America is a melting pot of people from different backgrounds and cultures.

African-Americans have struggled through decades of injustice and discrimination. They’ve struggled to make every citizen equal before the eyes of the law and to show that all people are created equal. That struggle is the essence of American history and who we are as people.

Black History Month is a time to explore and celebrate our history and achievements. It’s also a time to examine where we are as a country, how far we have progressed, and where we need to go to live up to our principles of freedom and equality for all.

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