Black History Month affords us an opportunity to reflect back over our pre-American existence and learn about the great African empires of Mali, Songhay, Old Ghana, Kanem-Bornu, Benin, Kush and others. It informs us of the early Africans who accompanied the European discovers and explorers to the New World in the 15th and 16th Centuries. It tells us of the twenty Africans who landed in Virginia in August 1619.
During Black History Month, we learn about the many accomplishments and contributions of Crispus Attucks, Phillis Wheatley, Richard Allen, Prince Hall, Peter Salem, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, James Derham, John S. Rock, Henry Highland Garnet, and others, during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Black History Month teaches us about the 5,000 slaves and free Blacks who served in the Continental Army and Navy between 1776 and 1781, enabling America to gain her independence. Further, we learn about the Black cowboys, frontiersmen and “Buffalo Soldiers” who helped to pioneer and settle the Old West during the mid- and late 1800s.
Black History Month allows us to revisit and experience the times, trials and triumphs of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Walter F. White, Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Ralph Bunche, A. Philip Randolph, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, Jr., Roy Wilkins, and other names forever enshrined in memory and history.
Moreover, Black History Month introduces us to the hundreds and thousands of African-American athletes, musicians, dancers, writers, composers, architects, inventors, lawyers, educators, politicians, civil rights activists, preachers, entrepreneurs, actors, media personalities, government officials, and important others, who have made significant and lasting contributions to all mankind.
Although it is generally understood and realized that Black History Month encompasses only a general outline or brief overview of African-Americans and their history, it is felt, nonetheless, that Black History Month is the mudsill and foundation upon which a more profound, lasting and meaningful relationship and experience can be built.
Black History Month is the grassroots level; it is the candle which refuses to curse the darkness; it is the flickering spark which will help to light the eternal flame of brotherhood and human understanding.
Accordingly, Black History Month serves a good and honest and just purpose. It is one of the most effective and significant means by which a beautiful and noble people have to express and share themselves with others.
It is a vehicle of heritage, culture and pride on a journey of love, understanding and acceptance. As such, there will always be a time, a place and a need for Black History Month.
Yes, Black History Month is (still) necessary.
John L. Horton is a resident of Norfolk, Va. and a frequent contributor to this newspaper.