Let Black History Month be learning opportunity

February is National Black History Month, a time to recognize the legacy of Black Americans who have helped make this country a more perfect union through their talents, sacrifice and inspiring leadership.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture cites Carter Woodson as the annual observance’s originator, first creating Negro History Week in February 1926 “to ensure that school children be exposed to black history.”

As only the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard (after W.E.B. Du Bois), Woodson had a second motive.

“To use history to prove to white America that blacks had played important roles in the creation of America and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens,” the museum states on its website.

Prominent civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are leading lights. There’s also Claudette Colvin, another activist who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus. And Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman. And Bayard Rustin, a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and a leader in both civil and gay rights. And so many others who have impacted every facet of American society.

As our society grapples with the inequity we see, whether in the discriminatory practices documented in our nation’s streets or the lack of representation of color during awards season, each one of us can be part of the effort to drive out prejudice. Read a book by a Black author or watch a movie by a Black filmmaker. Be intentional about patronizing Black-owned businesses. Take your family to the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

From the comfort of home, visit the virtual Searchable Museum on the National Museum of African American History and Culture website at http://www.nmaahc.si.edu. There you’ll find a number of exhibitions and stories.

In his Black History Month proclamation, President Joe Biden said there is much to appreciate during this occasion.

“We celebrate the legacy of Black Americans whose power to lead, to overcome and to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy has helped our nation become a more fair and just society,” Biden stated.

Unfortunately, the values our country endeavors to promote have been unavailable to many.

“This country was established upon the profound but simple idea that all people are created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives. It is an idea America has never fully lived up to, but it is an idea we have never fully walked away from either,” the proclamation reads. “The struggles and challenges of the Black American story to make a way out of no way have been the crucible where our resolve to fulfill this vision has most often been tested. Black Americans’ struggles for freedom, equal treatment and the right to vote; for equal opportunities in education, housing and the workplace; for economic opportunity, equal justice and political representation; and so much more have reformed our democracy far beyond its founding.”

‍Let the Black America story stir all of us to be better.