It’s already February, the shortest and most useless month of the year. It’s the month where we all just want to huddle up indoors and wait it out until March arrives with spring break, spring and March Madness.
Oh, sure, there are some out there who would argue that February isn’t a total waste. After all, you have the Super Bowl. Did you watch the Super Bowl? The Fish Bowl was more exciting. Watching paint dry was more exciting. A root canal would have been more exciting.
Others would point to Valentine’s Day as a significant February event but those people probably all live alone.
There is one reason to keep February around although even that has, in recent years, stirred controversy. February is Black History Month. The event, created to spotlight the achievements of African-Americans throughout history, began back in 1926 as Negro History Week. Its originator, Dr. Carter Woodson, the son of former slaves, started the event because he believed black history was largely being ignored in public schools.
The second week of February was chosen for the remembrance because it contained the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two icons of black history in this country. In 1976, Congress expanded Negro History Week into Black History Month.
But there are those, most notably Mississippian and actor Morgan Freemen, who argue Black History Month is no longer needed, that we’ve come too far and made too many big strides in civil rights and opportunities for blacks to need a separate recognition.
“It’s ridiculous,” Freeman said in a 2005 “60 Minutes” interview. “Black history is American history … why is there no White History Month?”
Even Woodson, its creator, voiced the hope 80 years ago that a time devoted to remembering black history and black achievements would no longer be needed.
But have we reached that point yet? The Supreme Court seems to think so, having struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act recently saying they are no longer needed to protect minority voting rights.
But have we reached the stage where we should no longer consider black history separate from any other? Consider this bit of black history: It was on this day back in 1994 that Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith was finally convicted of murdering civil rights worker Medgar Evers back in 1963 in Jackson. Evers had been the head of the NAACP in Mississippi and was instrumental in organizing voter registration drives and securing the admission of James Meredith as the first black student at the University of Mississippi.
Beckwith had been tried twice back in the ’60s for the crime and set free by all-white, all-male juries. It wasn’t until 30 years later that he was finally convicted. It would have been easy to just forget the killing and move on. Luckily, no one did.
So remembering history – all our histories – does still serve a purpose.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.