Importance of Black History Month Reigns Strong


Senior James Slack, co-president of the Black Student Union took a stand for the removal of the head scarf ban. (photo courtey of James Slack)

In 1925, a Harvard-trained historian named Carter G. Woodson hoped to raise awareness of African Americans contributions to American society and thus founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Woodson and the ASNLH announced “Negro History Week”, an entire week devoted to celebrating and informing people of the history of African Americans. The following year in February of 1926, the first celebration would take effect. February was the decided month to do it because it encompassed both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthday.

In following years, this week would become a vital part of African American lives. Mayors of cities countrywide started to issue proclamations supporting this week of celebration. The efforts to inform Americans of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture expanded during the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s. Under President Gerald R. Ford, the celebration was expanded in 1976 to the entire month. Exactly 50 years after the first celebration, America celebrated its first African American History Month.

In order to understand our nation’s history, it is vital that we remember the stories of those who came before us. We, as a country, celebrate African American History month as a remembrance of those who struggled and fought to fully claim the promises of liberty.  We pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to obtain equality in American society.

Black History in the United States shows some of our richest history. Between slavery, emancipation, the Jim-Crow era, and then the Civil Rights Movement, there is no doubt the impact African American history has had on our society and culture. Through these centuries, African Americans have made extraordinary cultural contribution from music, to literature, and various other creative areas.

Socially, African Americans forever changed history after the Civil Rights Movement. The most notable leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged communities to peacefully protest their way towards equality. He fought for not only African American rights, but also the economically disadvantaged and any victims of injustice. He was the driving force behind protests such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington.

One of the protests of this movement hits very close to home with the desegregation of Central High School in 1957, the very school we proudly attend today. Nine students were barred from entering by anti-segregation protesters who were backed up by the Arkansas National Guard and Governor Orval Faubus. President Eisenhower intervened and sent in the 101st Airborne to help ensure their safety while attending school. Eight out of the nine students ended up graduating.

Our school has always celebrated black history month as it aligns so closely with our schools history. A Black History Month program is always performed in February to highlight important moments in African American history and to portray it back to the students.

This years program is being directed by seniors Cencerity Burton and James Slack. Both feel strongly that “this is a huge part of of the small representation of our culture that we get at Central High School,” said Burton.

Slack also added that “it is crucial that we have a Black History Month Program at Central, considering it’s history. It’s something that most of the students look up to. Not only is it entertaining but it’s also educational.”

The Black History Month Program has been an important aspect of celebrating the month. It has also become one of the students favorite programs they are able to see during the year. Many students look forward to see what parts of the diverse history will be showcased. In the past, there has been controversy on what is shown during the program, but many feel as it is important to see all sides of the history.

“If we’re trying to prevent history from repeating itself then we should try to dive into the authenticity of Black History and not censor it to please a certain crowd. Because this play isn’t about pleasing others, it’s about showcasing history and talent,” said Slack.

While this month is celebrated and the history showcased through the program, some students feel the school could be doing more to celebrate such an important month.

“Black History Month is important to me because it reminds me to stop and thank those in the past who went out of their way to make sure the life I have is better than the one they lived,” senior Madison Edmondson said, “Central’s history is important to me as a student but I have participated in more in-depth celebrations at my other schools. I feel that we should do more during the entire month.”.