Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

African American History Month

on February 24, 2013

AAHM collections

Why do we have an African American History Month (AAHM)? I’ll bet you didn’t know it was started way back in 1926 by Charles Goodson.
A month for one group? The main criticism seems to be that other groups deserve just as much respect and time in the forefront. Okay. Good. This is actually one of the things I like about AAHM. It is positive. It focuses on contributions and progress. If it gets people of all groups to recognize and point out some good stuff, all the more power to them!
The group with the biggest grievance, in my mind, is what remains of Native Americans. They were displaced, introduced to killing diseases, lied to, and forgotten. Yes, many Irish were brought to this country as indentured servants and were relegated to slums and vilified. Jewish Americans were here from the start and contributed a lot. Muslim Americans face terrifying discrimination now. We owe all these people a debt that will never be repaid.

But the fact remains that, other than Native Americans, African Americans have been treated more shabbily than any other group in the USA. Devoting 8.3% of the year to shining a light on that is really a small price to pay.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave in February 1818. When he was twelve, his owner’s wife taught him the alphabet and rudimentary reading. He continued to teach himself to read. In the next few years, he risked his life by teaching others. He escaped slavery in 1838. The rest of his long life, he spoke and wrote eloquently about his life and about slavery.

It is because of the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln that AAHM is February.
And the real point is that African Americans have made so many tremendous contributions to the building of America that those contributions can’t be separated from those of others. Hopefully, everyone knows now about Benjamin Banneker, the surveyor who set out the borders of the District of Columbia. And about Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the American Revolution. Many of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are known to every school child.

From my point of view, the really great thing about AAHM is that it often spurs publishers to premiere some wonderful books. The official designation comes from the Library of Congress, so this makes sense. To say there is a wealth of information on their website is a huge understatement. (http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/index.html ) A quick search of Amazon reveals hundreds of new books in this area.

So, if you need something to read, or even to celebrate, consider celebrating our past.

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