Black history is American History

January 28, 2022

As we move into Black History Month, we have the opportunity not only to learn about and to honor the stories, the lives, the accomplishments, the discoveries, the grit and strength of Black people, but also the responsibility to ask why should Black History be relegated to only a month, when, in fact, Black history is American history, as central to the story of our nation as is white history? 

In the February edition of Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice’s “Black Voices,” Hanifah Ouro-Sama speaks most eloquently to this point. She writes: “I was expected to learn about George Washington during history class; expected to interpret the works of Edgar Allen Poe during English class; and expected to study the findings of Isaac Newton during science class. The same attention, however, was never given to Black political scholars like W.E.B. Du Bois, Black authors like Alice Walker, or Black scientists like George Washington Carver. It seemed as though our curriculum set aside teaching the contributions about Black people until February rolled around.” 

As Ms. Ouro-Sama suggests, our educational systems have always focused on white history, and that, only partially. To date, education glorifies the contributions of white people to our nation. At the same time, it sweeps under the carpet not only the contributions of Black people, starting with their fundamental contribution to American’s economic growth through their enslavement, but the less-glorifying aspects of white history, that this enslavement stamped our beginnings with the devastating immorality of racism, our nation’s original sin. American history involves both the inclusion of all people and the honest gaze at, understanding and acknowledgement of the ugly, as well as magnificent truths about our history.

Some would choose to deny the racism that underlay and underlies our history or suggest that it was in the past, arguing that teaching about it would do devastating harm to white children’s self-esteem. Of course, the irony of such a stand is that these same people give no thought to the unfathomable injustice and devastating harm caused to Black people as a result of the denial of the full truth and so the perpetuation of racism.

Another other irony is that the adults who are organizing to prevent the truth from being told are using their children as a rationale. Children learn their attitudes inside their families and then through education. Racism is not natural; babies don’t start out with it. It is a human construct. And that human construct, invented because of the need to justify the immorality of enslavement, pervades all of our systems today. It is blatant in the states’ efforts to chop away at voting rights and gerrymander their districts. These systemic changes are aimed at keeping Black and brown and under-served people from being able to vote. 

Why should teaching children and young people the full truth interfere with their self-esteem? Why shouldn’t they learn about injustice and inequality and lack of equity, alongside of learning about justice and fairness and opportunity for all. If our children are armed with the full truth, if they are taught the true complexity of humanity, including our capacity for wreaking harm along with our gift of creating good, if they learn to think in complexity, they are much more likely to do far more good for our nation than not. If they are taught only one, partial side, they will simply perpetuate the divisions and violence that is tearing our nation apart now. 

The systemic racism in our county began with human beings and can only be made obsolete by human beings. So, let our children be taught true American history, with an attitude of respect, openness, honesty and compassion, so that our country can reap the benefits of all the talents and ideas and discoveries that lie ahead to be brought to fruition by all our children.

Sara Ford
Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice 


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