It’s Black History Month. While the daily news cycle looks like it will still be grinding us all into a fine paste for the foreseeable future, it’s still worth setting time aside to learn more about the parts of American history that were glossed over in your history books so as to better paint this nation as uniquely virtuous, compared to all the others, or to directly stoke notions of white supremacy, or otherwise coddle that large and vocal portion of American society that does not like learning about anything nuanced or unpleasant or that would not look good stenciled in as a slogan on the back window of a monster truck.
Sorry, still feeling a bit punchy. Let’s settle back down and get to it.
• CBS News has an introduction to one of the founding fathers of Black History Month, Carter G. Woodson. Born the son of former slaves, Woodson was one of the first Black Americans to be awarded a doctorate degree from Harvard and became a leading figure in the push to more fully incorporate the role of Black Americans into American history teachings.
• For a deeper look at Woodson’s role and the inherent politics of both the drive to erase Black contributions from classroom narratives and Woodson and other educators’ push to undo those censures, Jarvis R. Givens adds some detail in an EducationWeek essay. Woodson’s creation of Negro History Week, a precursor to Black History Month, “did not occur in a vacuum,” writes Givens.
“As a longtime public school teacher, Woodson witnessed white school leaders resist efforts to meaningfully transform curriculum and school policies,” and “learned how distortions about Black life were constructed at the highest levels of education. Recognizing these barriers, he decided to work from outside the classroom to partner with teachers.”
• In an essay for CNN, historian Peniel Joseph notes of the perilous times we find ourselves in: “The racial disparities so terribly evident in the Covid-19 pandemic and the most divisive presidential election in American history are rooted in circumstances that can best be explained, analyzed and interrogated through the lens of Black history.”
Joseph writes: “Black history is a story of heartbreakingly stark juxtapositions. In January, racial progress could be seen in the historic victory of Rev. Raphael Warnock to the US Senate from Georgia, the first Black person elected from the peach state. Warnock’s victory was orchestrated by the organizing prowess, political resilience, and indefatigable will of a Black community led by women such as Stacey Abrams. In nearly the same breath, the January 6 assault on the US Capitol showed the entire world, in stark detail, the White supremacist underside of American democracy that, historically has only been most visible to Black people.”
• The Alabama Media Group is posting on lesser-known Black leaders and heroes in the state’s history. It’s an astonishing look through the recent and not-recent past, and one that will probably draw you in for far longer than you intend.
• In the same vein, CNN is also posting a daily tribute to lesser-known Black Americans through the month of February. Do you know who Josh Gibson is? What about James Armistead Lafayette?
Numerous other resources are also available. Take a break and skim through any one of them. You do not need to be beholden to our News Cycle From Hell one hundred percent of your time. We will keep you up to date on the big moves and the smaller, weirder ones, so you’re allowed to wander for a bit to learn what makes Gee’s Bend famous or what drove Garrett Morgan to invent the precursor to the now-ubiquitous traffic light.
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