Every year, when the month of February rolls around, there is one thing on the lesson plan in public schools: Black History Month. History classes teach about the Civil War and how President Lincoln freed the slaves, and then jump to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the lives of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. English classes look at the speeches of Dr. King, and perhaps at the autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Every February, schools across the nation discuss these same few events and these select few persons, with little, if any, variation.
Some people think that Black History Month is a great thing, while others are more skeptical. The idea of it is great—children should be educated in the history of many diverse cultures. However, in practice, Black History Month is a letdown.
The first problem is that it is only a month long. Schoolchildren learn about American and European—that is, white—history from September through January, and again from March through June. Yet black history is just as long, just as varied, and just as interesting as this white history. Indeed, humanity originated in Northern Africa and the “fertile crescent” of the Middle East, regions that were populated by people who, today, we would probably call “black.” Instead of devoting one single month to the study of black history, shouldn’t it be taught alongside our current Eurocentric history? And furthermore, if we have to separate black history into its own month, why do we give it the shortest month of the year?
The other flaw of Black History Month is the limited scope of what is taught in that time period. Black history is filled with many great artists, writers, musicians, and political figures. Yet the schools focus on only a few of these: Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglass. While these people, and the actions they undertook, are important to study, there are others who deserve to be taught as well.
In school, children are taught about the American and French Revolutions, but there is no mention of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haitian Revolution, nor of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in America. No mention is made of how the leaders of the Haitian Revolution were inspired by the events of the American Revolution, and how the Americans, out of fear, helped to cripple the newly-born nation with trade embargoes.