As we come to the end of the month in which we celebrate the formative impact Americans of African descent have had on the American history landscape, we acknowledge the fact that Black History Month is not nearly long enough to contain all of the significant contributions made by America’s Black citizens to this country. Looking back over the historic contributions to our society in arts, culture, politics, science, technology, sports and so much more, it becomes crystal clear that Black History ‘s impact has been woefully under-represented in American History textbooks and curriculum. There’s been a lack of artistic representations of Black History and historic figures at the center of that history in art, film and mass media. The more we learn, the more we recognize how much more there is to learn. When we are ill-informed and miseducated about our history, it makes it more difficult to navigate our present and imagine our future. As the old folks say, “When we know better, we need to do better!”
We cannot allow others to write our history and we must begin to correct the record. Right now there’s an effort in elementary and secondary school curriculums all over the country to revise the way our children are taught the history of Chattel Slavery in America. Textbooks have actually begun to characterized this heinous industry as “indentured servitude” and enslaved African people as immigrants. While the enslavement of African people is a chapter in Black History, we acknowledge it as only a chapter. It is not at all the center point or even the most significant period of time within the Black History continuum. However, the revisionist recharacterization of the Chattel Slavery industry as indentured servitude or as an immigrant story is intentionally false. Those who are reconstructing this history are insidiously denying the truth of how America was built, and ignoring the generational wealth that white Americans now enjoy. This also includes the institutional structures of privilege and power built upon the economics of enslaved free labor for hundreds of years throughout the formation of the American history story.
Not only do we need to Sankofa – meaning to go back and get whatever was lost, taken, stolen or forgotten, we also need to Re-member our history and recognize our legacy as a people. Then we can move forward together with the knowledge of that history empowered, embracing the truth of our purpose and our calling as a people. We must know who we ARE as African descended people and call upon that knowledge each and everyday. This means we truly need to apprehend who we were so that we can STAND in that truth and defy the lies that have been written about us and the labels that others have placed upon our children, our neighborhoods, and our history. When we KNOW ourselves and define ourselves by the truth of our collective history, then we can move forward together into our destiny.
Black History is made each and everyday. We ALL need to recommit ourselves to the study of our history. We need to encourage others to do the same. We need to stand against the revisionist history and this “new curriculum” in American history textbooks. It mischaracterizes our history in this country, and it also minimizes our contributions in building this nation. To make Chattel Slavery “not so bad” and to characterize those who were victimized by its atrocities as indentured servants or willing immigrants is to create a completely false representation of history. We must tell our own story and not allow others to edit, revise or change it. The power of the narrative is in the mouths of those who tell the story. Let us remember Black History makes history every single day!