Rev. James Rutledge Jr., AME Zion Pastor, GBM Board Member
There is a common narrative that the United States of America is a country made up of immigrants. This narrative is false due to the refusal to acknowledge Native Americans or natives as some of the original citizens who were the first owners of this land we call America. How can Native Americans or Indians be considered as immigrants if they were here before anyone else stepped foot onto this land? Also, according to African American history during the time period dating from the 1500s to the 1800s Europeans brought African across the Atlantic to America to be used as property for slave owners for mining and agriculture. The Atlantic slave trade brought about separation of families, sickness and death upon the Africans. This is part of the evidence that United States is not made up of only immigrants. Over 400 years African Americans have been oppressed by systems of racism, segregation and the effects and the after-effects of Jim Crow. From slavery to the Civil Rights movement African Americans have fought long and hard for freedom and equal human rights.
African Americans have a rich history that is recognized every year in the month of February. Thanks to Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland for their work with making sure that Negros were being recognized for their achievements. They founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in September 1915. The ASNLH sponsored a national Negro Week in 1926 for the second week in the month of February. Many cities across the country began to recognize Negro History Week within schools and communities. By the late 1960s thank to the push and the hard fought efforts of the Civil Rights movement Negro Week evolved into what is commonly know now as Black History month.
While Black History month is being observed today, there is still little awareness of the importance of learning and knowing this history of faith, hope, love, perseverance, blood, sweat and tears that was witnessed by those who endured the struggle for freedom. It is a sad moment in our history today when this generation chooses not to learn the truth about Black History. It is also sad that Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Jefferson County have a choice whether or not to teach black history to their students. I have lived in Jefferson County for a little over 15 years and I remember when our daughters were in the fourth grade that Black History was not recognized in their Elementary School. As more and more Blacks moved into Jefferson County and as more parents were getting involved Black History began to be recognized once a year.
Many African Americans have paved the way for us to be recipients of the freedom we have today. From Birmingham, Alabama to the Washington D.C. many people marched and fought for the civil and human rights. Just to name some who have led the way, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, John Lewis, Harriot Tubman, Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Dr. John McPherson were at the forefront for the struggle for freedom. These and many more fought too long and hard for us to just keep Black History on the shelves collecting dust. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let the fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (NIV). As it is important Hebrew history to be passed down through generations it is equally as important for Black History to be taught to every generation. “How do we now where we are going if we don’t know where we have been?”
Without Black History there is no United States of America. Without Black History there is no White House. Without Black History where would all the inventions and investments to Modern-day science be today? Black History has helped African Americans to find their identity. Black History has help Blacks achieve in education and entrepreneurship. Thanks to the mothers and fathers who did not give up in the fight for freedom. The struggle is not over and Black History is being written today through sweat, blood and tears of people today who know what it takes to make life better for the next generation.
Black History Month – Black History – History.com, A & E Television Networks, LLC. 2018, http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month, January 26, 2018
Susan Altman, The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Facts on file Inc., New York, NY 1997.