Black History Month has a history of its own.
The commemorative month was founded more than 100 years ago.
In 1915, 50 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which abolished slavery in America, Black History Month was created as a way to acknowledge Black Americans.
Attempting to recognize all African Americans who achieved greatness in their field is impossible.
The contributions of Black Americans is as broad, as vast and as diverse as the nation.
Some people still like to deride the need for a Black History Month. Why don’t we have a White History Month, they ask?
History books and curriculum have largely been written by white people, and thus reflect a homogeneous perspective that has excluded the contributions of Blacks, women and other minorities. Arguably, every month is White History Month.
Still, eventually, our country might reach the point we no longer need to call attention to the achievements of any specific race or ethnic group.
But we’re not there yet.
Black History Months reveals the stories of Americans whose stories often go untold.
Of course, everyone knows of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks — and rightly so — but they are far from being alone when it comes to important and meaningful contributions of Black Americans.
While school children all know the names of Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and the roles they played in American independence, do they know about Crispus Attucks, who gave his life during the Boston Massacre? How many people know the story of this great Black American?
When you think of the Revolutionary War, who do you see in your mind’s eye as you look over the battlefields of Lexington and Concord, Fort Henry or Savannah? More than likely you visualize young white men.
Are you aware that thousands of Black soldiers fought for the very freedoms they would later be denied?
When you think about the Industrial Revolution, do you see an emerging American economy built on the backs of Black men, women and children? When you think of the ingenuity of great American inventors do you only think of men who looked like Thomas Edison? Or do you think of Lewis Latimer, a Black man who invented the filament that made Edison’s light possible?
Do you know about Benjamin Banneker, the surveyor who designed Washington, D.C.?
Do you know about Norbet Rilleux who refined sugar?
Do you know about Granville T. Woods, the inventor of the steam boiler?
Do you know about Daniel Hale Williams, the first surgeon to operate on the human heart?
When you think of the great minds and educators in American History do the names Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Wood and W.E.B. Du Bois come to mind?
When you think of great American leaders walking government halls do the names of Robert C. Weaver, Edward W. Brooke, Thurgood Marshall or Patricia Roberts Harris come to mind?
When you think of great military leaders, the names you know include Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman. How about Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr.?
Along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, all of these men and women were Black but not merely great Black Americans. There does not need to be any footnote or asterisk by their names. They were simply great Americans who did great things.
And while the stories are shared during the month, people will hopefully realize an overriding truth.
These are not Black stories.
They are the stories of our neighbors and friends, our fellow citizens.
They are American stories.