During this year’s Grammys, Google released an ad it’s calling “The Most Searched: A Celebration of Black History Makers.” This ad features prominent black figures in American history like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Fredrick Douglas, as well as important people in modern culture like Serena Williams, Beyonce and RuPaul, among others.
Google used data tracking that dates back to 2004 to compile a list of the most searched abolitionists, performances, biographies and many others as a way to celebrate the start of Black History Month.
On the website where Google has the explanation behind this commercial, it has in large text, “Everyone deserves the chance to make history.”
Not only that, but everyone deserves the chance to know their history — their full history — without the whitewashing.
As with every year, the cries on social media for a “White History Month” take hold. The plain and simple answer for why there isn’t a white history month is because white people have taken hold of all of history. They have effectively erased black history from the textbooks.
So frequently, when students learn about prominent figures in history, they are, more times than not, white men.
Black History Month gets its origin from Negro History Week, created in 1926, and it was created by Carter G. Woodson — a black, Harvard-trained historian. It wasn’t 50 years later that it would become a month-long event. February was chosen because both abolitionist Fredrick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays fall within it.
Part of the original goal of Negro History Week was to place an emphasis on teaching the history of black Americans in public schools.
Pause here for a moment. This was 1926. Woodson wanted to educate public schools on black history, 28 years before the schools were desegregated.
By creating a specific time when black history could be celebrated, Woodson effectively made sure that it would be celebrated.
We can sit here and say all we want that black history should be studied and celebrated all year round — and it should. However, if we were to remove or forget the importance of Black History Month, that simply wouldn’t happen.
It’s similar to how people boycott Valentine’s Day, because “you should love your significant other all the time.” But really, how frequently in people’s everyday lives to they go out of their way to show their affection?
By creating a time and space for a celebration to occur, it ensures that the duty will be fulfilled.
Without the reminder that February is Black History Month, much of the celebration would decrease significantly. Racism is on the rise yet again in America and around the world. Now, more than ever, we need to teach and be taught about our past — All of our past, including the racist bits we’ve been trying to cover up for centuries.
Black history is American history. It would be a disservice to forget the stories of the past. They shape every single one of us, and they mold our future.
While we should make an effort to celebrate black history throughout the entire year, we can all make an effort to learn something new this February and preserve a history previously buried.