The month of February doesn’t only mark the beginning of spring, it is the month that has a great socio-political history. Each February American people join hands to pay tribute and to commemorate African-Americans for their inevitable contributions. The event is called ‘Black History Month’ and is celebrated in the United States, Canada, and Ireland in February while in the UK and Netherland it is celebrated during October.
This month of recognition aims to deepen the knowledge and understanding of the struggles and countless contributions of African- Americans. The event was recognized in 1926 by Americans and was named as ‘Negro History Week’. It might sound surprising to you, but black history was barely studied or documented before this tradition originated.
A lot of historians find it bizarre because Africans have long been an important part of the American history since colonial times. Despite this fact, their contributions were not acknowledged. Until the 20th century, they didn’t gain a respectable presence in the literature. That means Blacks were noticeably absent from the mainstream curricula and Black History Month is meant to address this unfortunate inequity.
According to historians, Black hair is another significant aspect of the history of African Americans. It has been an inevitable feature of the black community as well as black history. African Americans considered hair as an integral part of the black culture. In African civilizations, hair indicates the family background of the tribe and its social status.
However, during the 19th century, due to racism and societal pressure, the black community had to adjust their hair. They had to smoothen and straighten their hair so that they could move in the dominant society characterized by white intellectuals. Many historians refer to that time as ‘the oppression era’ because of the intensive methods black people had to use to smooth their hair. They used a hot chemical that wasn’t only dangerous, but would burn their hair and scalp as well. That is how they tried to change the texture of their hair to look like European people.
Overall, black history month has a purpose which is to celebrate not only the contributions of the black community, but their cultural sacrifices which they were forced to make to fit in the mainstream.
History and Heritage of the Black History Month
There is no doubt that the black history month is typically a product of dedication and efforts of black freedom fighter and black scholars who sought to create their identity. They stood against the contradictions and myths that were spread against the ‘Blacks’ in the so-called “Democratic America”.
The Negro History Week that was initiated in 1926 was actually a reaction to racism. According to famous historians, it was an attempt to create a powerful defense system against the black community. However, capturing the trauma and climate of that era is difficult, it is important to understand the factors that caused this commotion and uproar in the black community.
A bulk of evidence suggests that black folks were dehumanized continually. Not only this, people were relegated to a point where they started considering themselves non-citizens and unwanted aliens. The intellectual white community, on the other hand, was no different from mainstream Americans who considered African descent subservient.
Dr. Carter Woodson in 1933 was the leading character in the black history journey and played a critical role in establishing the identity of black folks. He characterized the educational community of America a flawed one and indicated that it only promotes the ethics and philosophy that justified peonage, slavery lynching and segregation.
It was just the beginning of his contributions to the black community. Later he formed an association to study Negro life and their history and led his struggle by institutionalizing Negro History Week that later turned into Negro history.
He was a Harvard trained scholar and Howard University’s former dean and was later dropped out from mainstream academia. His aim was to devote his whole life to study the role of the black community in American history.
In Dr. Woodson’s perspective, there is nothing like Negro history that exists in the world, whereas, Negro history is just the missing segment of the world’s history. A big part of Dr. Woodson’s life was spent discovering the black history and American-African strength. He was incredibly committed to restoring the missing Negro segment.
Tied to this perspective, Carter Woodson laid a foundation of the Negro Association (to study Negro history and life) in 1915. Continuing with his study, in 1916, he published the Journal of Negro History. His Negro Bulletin was published in 1937. With his astounding efforts, Dr. Woodson established a Negro History Week in 1926 with the help of several other black scholars and thinkers.
Important Aspects of the Black History Month
According to Woodson, race doesn’t have a history; it is an invented concept that follows no worthwhile tradition. That is what makes it a negligible factor that needs little consideration. With these enlightening thoughts, Woodson became the first person who identified the dominance of White Americans. He was worried about black children and the content they were bound to study. The curricula did not include the ancestral achievements of Black Americans. Negro Week also aimed to revise the educational pattern in America.
· Why Woodson Chose February?
To celebrate the Negro Week, Dr. Woodson selected February as the sane month marks the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Although there is no certainty that Frederick who was a former slave was born in February, people celebrate it on Feb 14. Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated on Feb 12.
Dr. Daryl Scott- a history professor at Howard University, also a former president of ASSAH, stated that Dr, Woodson chose this week in February because the black community was already celebrating the birthdays of Douglass and Lincoln. He wanted to promote the week with the help of newspapers. Plus, his focus was on making African-American history an integral part of the Negro week celebrations.
· Why a Week Changed to a Month?
Despite the fact that Negro History Week became a huge success, Dr. Woodson thought a lot could be done to awaken the Black community. The original idea was to portray students who had learned about African-American history during the academic year. Later, Woodson felt a week was not enough to sufficiently cover the idea and concept that needed to be discussed more. Woodson then wanted to start a Negro history year as he believed that a subject that receives only one week’s worth of attention would not make much sense to people.
Considering this, many places, such as Chicago and West Virginia, expanded Negro History Month celebrations in 1940 to 1960. It was Black Power Movement and civil rights that advocated Negro week and gained an official status.
It was the time when Black History Week became Black History Month. On the 50th anniversary of Negro Week, the African-American Association declared the change and turned the History Week to Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford announced February as the African-American History Month.
The president urged Americans to seize this opportunity to remember and honor the neglected accomplishments of the Black community in various areas of the American civilization. Since then, February was declared an important month for African-American History. The activities and events are planned accordingly to emphasize the historical importance of Black folk’s contributions to the country.
Importance of the Black History Month in America’s Roots
Considering the impactful history of this celebration, there is no denying that the Black History Month is of paramount importance for Americans. It doesn’t only represent a history of revolution, but also plays a critically important role when it comes to diminishing cultural boundaries.
It brought people from different cultures together and helped them move collectively toward Woodson’s vision.
Besides this, it gave an opportunity to white Americans to learn and explore about black history and the culture it was trying to promote. More importantly, the whole approach was to highlight the contributions and roles of black folks (which were often overlooked) that shaped the history of America.
The concept of the Black History Month inspired a plethora of other communities and cultures in different regions of the world, including the US. Now America has Irish- American heritage, Jewish America heritage, Tibetan American Heritage and a lot more like these. Not only this, there are Gypsy and Traveler History Months and Sikh Heritage Week that take place in the UK annually.
How does the Black History Month Empowers Women?
There is no doubt that the Black History Month is much more than just cherishing the efforts and contributions of the Black community. What we mean here is that it is included in one of those few historical events that celebrate woman empowerment.
Black History Month is not less than a freedom movement for women as it provided opportunities to many black women to prove themselves. The historical event gave them the recognition they deserved.
Here we have enumerated a few amazing ladies who contributed a lot, but are often neglected or go under the radar.
· Madam C. J. Walker
Born as a slave, Madam Walker is an inspiring example of hard work and determination. She got married at the age of 14 and got widowed at the age of 20. Despite all the hardships, the strong lady didn’t leave a single stone unturned to bring change in people’s life. Surprisingly, she didn’t fight a freedom movement or participated in protests; instead, her way to turn her life around and help her community was different.
Madam Walker changed people’s lives through her hair products. A lot of people in the late 1800’s suffered from a strange scalp disease that caused massive hair thinning at a very young age. The main cause of that disease was the hot chemical black people used to get rid of their black hair. Walker was one of them so she made a decision to do something. She joined hands with some businesswomen and started a small business. She sold ointments, shampoos, and other hair growth products to help African -Americans suffering from the scalp disease.
Through investment and traveling, she taught women how to empower themselves to help them become independent.
· Hattie McDaniel
Another inspiring figure Hattie McDaniel is known for her quintessential performance in ‘Gone with the Wind’. Her character was highly criticized in the film that was released in 1939. Hattie marked the era by becoming the first black woman who won an Academy Award. This is where she set an example of women empowerment.
She also participated in several political activities to raise her voice against discrimination and inequality against the black community and became an emblem of peace and equal rights. She was a part of the civil right movements in which the black community wore ‘Afro hairstyle’ as a symbol of pride, empowerment, and rebellion.
The important movement was against oppression and racial segregation where the eye-catching hairstyle was used as an assertion of African-American culture and identity. It also highlighted the contrast between previous trends that were inspired by white fashion.
· Ella Baker
The Black History Month would not have been a success if women like Ella Baker weren’t there. One of the prominent civil right leaders, Ella was associated with very important groundbreaking organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and NAACP.
She worked with leaders like Martin Luther, W. E. B. Du Bois and Thurgood Marshall to not only shape civil right movements, but also to mold the mind of future activists. There is no doubt that Ella was an inspiration for many black women.
· Bessie Coleman
The first Black American pilot, Bessie Coleman beat all the odds of discrimination and poverty. She is a true example of persistence and resilience as she was refused by all flying schools in the US. The lady went to Paris to receive her professional aviation training and Coleman was the only black woman there. She faced sexism, racism, and discrimination, but didn’t give up on her dreams. She earned her international pilot license and became a symbol of female empowerment.
Kerotin – a Symbol of Women Empowerment
All these black ladies were able to prove themselves because they had unwavering confidence in their personalities. Kerotin with its vision to empower women tries its best to create hair products that help you gain confidence in your personality without making any compromises to your natural hair. The products contain organic ingredients that are powerful enough to rejunivate the natural texture of your tresses. No matter what type of hair issue a woman is going through, the wide range of Kerotin products has a solution for it.
The brand understands how issues like brassiness, hair thinning and dryness can affect the confidence of women in big ways. Not only do they affect the confidence, but also increase stress level that eventually hinders people from achieving their dreams. That is why using quality hair products like kerotin is extremely important to boost your self esteem.
All Kerotin products help women give the well-deserved pampering their locks need, regardless of their texture and type. Whether your locks are silky or thick and curly like African-American black hair, with Kerotin products you don’t need high maintenance.
To put it simply, Kerotin hair products reduce the need to follow traditional hair care tips. Once you start feeling better about your hair, you get the confidence to perform better and make a lasting impression on people, no matter what you are doing.
To a small extent, the Black History Month is not only about celebrating a single event; however, it encapsulates a lot of inspiring stories, contributions, and movements initiated by the Black community to make the world realize their existence.