I was in college about the time that “Black Studies” became a discipline and February became “Black History Month.”
The reasons for these were that white folks had warped or ignored (or both) the history of black persons in the United States since well before the Civil War.
The South and its partisans had tried to portray black persons as suited only for slavery, so as to justify the peculiar institution with false religion and pseudo-science; George Fitzhugh’s abominable Cannibals All was the epitome of this.
The rest of the country, having turned its back on the freed slaves and looked the other way as Jim Crow laws and other methods reduced them and their descendants to practical, if not legal, servitude, had no desire to remember its perfidy.
The purpose of “Black History Month” has always been to put black history in balance as part of American history, not to turn black history into something apart from it.
Some persons resent this. They want to forget and hide the past, perhaps even recreate it . . . .
In the Chicago Trib, Clarence Page comments of the recurring objections to the existence of Black History Month:
. . .every time I begin to think we can relax special efforts to remember this nation’s grand racial epic of sorrow and triumph, I am jerked alert by current events that show how easily history can be forgotten or twisted, even by major newsmakers.
For example, there was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s recent mythologizing of the nation’s Founders at an Iowans for Tax Relief rally.
“How unique, in all of the world, that one nation … was the resting point for people from groups all across the world,” she said, getting a bit carried away from reality. “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status. … Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable? It’s absolutely remarkable.”
It was remarkable, all right, but the slaves owned by many of the Founders, including some of our early presidents, would not recognize the nation’s early days as she described them.
Or there is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s December recollections in The Weekly Standard of growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution in his state: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. Lucky for you, Governor.