The Political Origins of Black History Month

By Jarvis R. Givens | Black Perspectives

Has Black History Month run its course? Every year conversations take place weighing the significance of Black History Month. Assertions such as, “Black history is just world history and should not be confined to a month,” become commonplace. Others say it has become too commercialized—reduced to things like celebratory avatars of Sojourner Truth or Carter G. Woodson adorning the webpage of some popular search engine. While some concerns are valid, others are thin and ahistorical, often failing to grapple with the original political intent of this annual observance. For Carter G. Woodson, the political origins of Black History Month (originally Negro History Week) was about re-articulating the stories of Black people so as to achieve a new narration of what it means to be human altogether, something other than the negation of Black life. Woodson believed that it is the stories we tell ourselves, about who we are, that motivate and demotivate our behaviors. These stories shape how we can think. speak. and be among the living.

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