4ALL: Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month?

A few years back, a male student asked me why we were celebrating Women’s History Month. I responded, “Because every other month is men’s history month.”

Before the boys in my classroom could celebrate too much, I had to explain my statement. I asked the class to flip through our American history text books. Aside from a few inserts here and there, the overwhelming majority of the people featured were white (mostly rich) men. This led me to make the connection to Black History Month which was very important to my students who were 90% African American. Black history was just as neglected or even trivialized as the history of women in our textbooks

Black History Month and other heritage months are not meant to hold certain minorities above other ethnic or gender groups. Heritage months are meant as a way to level the playing field and call attention to portions of our history which are typically ignored.

The goal is for these heritage months to become obsolete when we give proper coverage throughout the year. Sadly, this is currently not the case. Out history is still told through a limited perspective and subjects. Heritage months like Black History Month are necessary to combat this misrepresentation of our collective history.

For more information on the representation of groups and perspectives in our history textbooks, I highly recommend Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. For a comprehensive and all-encompassing record of American history, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.