We Need More History in Our History…and Not Only for a Month
"Black History Month stories were often about present-day politicians, entertainers, ministers, or sports figures. Sprinkle in a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. . . . done."
I appreciate the creation of time to learn of the contributions of African Americans, but I’ve always wondered why only a month and why that month doesn’t offer more comprehensive history? That’s not my only issue…
One of my frustrations in the TV newsrooms where I’ve worked happened during the month of February. Black History Month stories were often about present-day politicians, entertainers, ministers, or sports figures. I thought, that’s not how history is told about non-Black people. Sprinkle in a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. . . . done.
No. My childhood was in the Berkeley bubble of the 1960s---the age of conscious awareness. In third grade, at the demonstration or lab school for U.C. Berkeley, our white teacher handed out workbooks, called the Negro History Workbook---or something like that. That moment was the source of my assumption that history did not have to be segregated. But it continues to be.
From the steam engine for warships, blood transfusion technology, to the golf tee and answering machine, Black Americans received patents for the creation and/or improvement of thousands of inventions. (https://blackinventor.com/).
Technology that dates back hundreds of years to today and improves or impacts the lives of everyone.
If you have or know anyone with a pacemaker, there is an African American Texan to recognize for that. His name was Otis Boykin, the man in the photo. He worked as a research engineer at P.J. Nilsen Research Labs. He couldn’t afford to go to graduate school, so he decided to focus on inventions. His most famous is the control unit for the pacemaker. It provides electrical impulses to stimulate the heart to create a steady heartbeat. In tragic irony, he died of heart failure in 1982.
Another Texan, Joshua Houston, who was owned, educated, and emancipated by Sam Houston and his family, became an early Huntsville politician. When Sam Houston’s widow faced financial difficulty, he was able to offer money to help her. One of many rich stories in Texas history.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the creation of Negro History Week by historian, author and journalist, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. And I admire the talents and contributions from Black Americans today in entertainment, sports, and political service. But as Negro History Week became Black History Month, I think it’s time for a promotion to all year round and for history to really mean…history. It is also time for the contributions of Asian Americans, Latinos, Mexican Americans, Indigenous Peoples, and all non-whites, to be included in the pages of history books in American schools.
We should all see ourselves in American history.