Founded by Carter G. Woodson and other key African American figures, Black History Month officially began as a week dedicated to Black legacy, struggles, and culture in 1926. The 1960s catapulted the week into a month-long tribute. The mid-1970s cemented Black History Month in America’s cultural consciousness—every president since then has affirmed Black History Month.
For Woodson, the initially designated week was symbolic of a daily ethos. He saw it as a movement, a progression of continuous education and development. As recent movements have illustrated, now, more than ever, it is crucial to recognize that the spirit of Black History Month must permeate our behavior and actions consistently in order to attain real change.
Honeysuckle is ever cognizant of the struggles of the past, the tribute we must give to key figures. At the same time, we recognize the deficiencies of the present and the crucial need for Black History Month to be a constant process of education and advocacy.
In this series, Honeysuckle’s staff express their thoughts and sentiments on Black History Month. First up is Kalyn Womack. Kalyn is a senior at George Washington University. Through her writing, she aims to challenge injustices, spotlight hidden figures of shadowed communities and continue to push forward the truth.
Kalyn Womack’s Take on Black History Month
Black History Month didn’t mean much to me when I was younger. As a Black girl attending a predominantly white school, only one week of February was dedicated to learning about Black people. These Black people were often limited to sugar-coated versions of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman.
My first Black history lesson was self-taught—it was the story of Emmett Till. Digesting the true horrors of the Jim Crow South in middle school was unnerving to the point of keeping me awake at night. It wasn’t until I was in high school and college that I learned even more about myself, my ancestors, and the experiences I was intentionally deprived of.
The majority of recountings and salvagings of African American memories were our own. We wrote our stories and created new ones on our own account. Our literature transcended the past and took readers into a future where hope thrived.
African American culture was the backbone of many famous inventions and trends. We built businesses and schools to support our communities. The Civil Rights Movement had many more layers and significant leaders than traditionally depicted. Our setbacks in society allows us to make history every day, every month and every year.
I began to take Black history personally, as something to reclaim. To me, Black History Month is now a continuous moment. Current events reflect the history of this country—the efforts of Black people to have an equal seat at the table and the forces they worked against.
Black History Month is a living breathing timeline of celebrating old legends and new emerging ones. It is a constant educational and celebratory movement of recognizing how far we’ve come as a community and how much further we have to go.