By Ron Walker
I begin with this statement: Black history is made every day. The Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves, had to defer his schooling to help his family by working in the coal mines of West Virginia. My own grandfather, Willie Silas Elmore, also worked in the West Virginia coal mines to put food on the family table in the era of the Great Depression.
Despite the hardships, Carter G. Woodson knew the power and importance of education and ultimately became a teacher and the second Black man, after W.E.B Dubois, to obtain a PhD from Harvard University. He was a school principal at the all-Black Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington, DC, and he went on to become the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University.
It is clear when you study the life and actions of Dr. Woodson that he was a strong advocate for education. He was also well-versed in African American history. He strived to engage everyone regardless of their educational background in the study of the history of Black people. Woodson also believed that the study of African American history should be available to White people as a means of cross-cultural understanding. What would Dr. Carter Woodson think about the efforts emerging in our nation to ban books and the ongoing furor around Critical Race Theory?
If Woodson were here today, I expect that he would be appalled by efforts to limit or erase the opportunity for cross-cultural learning both during and outside of Black History Month. When one truly knows his or her history, with both its achievements and its failures, one is better prepared to face the future. While it is important to study, learn, and appreciate Black history during February each year, I’m sure most would agree that it cannot be limited to one month. When we know and value the myriad contributions made by Black people, we all will benefit.