Opinion: Why Black History Month Matters to Me

In honor of Black History Month, the Hilltopper has invited veteran guest writer Sabriyyah Franklin to share her thoughts on this important time of year. As part of her project through the Morris Hills Gifted and Talented program, Franklin has created a new course called Music, Africa, and Activism: A Celebration of Black History and Identity. The class is open to students grades 10 through 12. You can read her other article here.

Black History Month starts on February 1 annually, and it aims to commemorate and celebrate the impactful achievements of peoples of the African Diaspora. Black History Month originally started as “Negro History Week” in 1926, created by historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. The second week in February was chosen to celebrate, between the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. 

“Negro History Week” started to get recognition from different states throughout the years. By the late 1960s to mid-1970s, it was officially recognized and evolved into a month by President Gerald Ford. The celebration spread through some schools, with teachers incorporating activities and lessons to educate students on monumental Black people. 

What Black History Month means to me is a lot of things. I believe it is an important month to celebrate and that even when February is over, everybody should still be aiming to educate themselves about Black History. It should never be a thing when you just pause on educating yourself at the end of February and not pick it back up until the next year. I also believe Black History Month needs to be more recognized, both in schools and out. Many schools do not recognize Black History, and it ends up going unnoticed. This perpetuates the cycle of students, especially Black Students, not learning about Black History and important people that paved the way for all of us. 

Black History is something that should continue to be celebrated and taught to our children and siblings, the future generations. Teachers, I ask you to step back from teaching about the more known pioneers such as MLK and Rosa Parks, and that you step out of the box, do your research, and teach students about unknown impactful people such as Fannie Lou Hamer, an activist who no matter what got in her way, continued to demand rights for her culture and all women. I ask that you take a break from teaching about enslavement and uplift your Black students, let them know that their culture has countless people to look up to. Parents, I ask that you educate yourself and pass that knowledge on to your children as well. We cannot count on schools to teach every little thing

 We all need to take a step back and appreciate the Black pioneers that came before us, such as George Washington Carver, Malcolm X, and so many more. If they hadn’t done what they did, the world would be much different than it is today. After all, Black History is American History.