In February, we celebrated Black History Month by honoring past and present African American figures in our community and our nation. As a country, we dedicated this month to African Americans because for is time to celebrate everything they have done for America, but also dedicate this time to teach about the past. Civil rights activists like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr are a select few of the people who stood up to combat racial discrimination. Black History Month originated from a man named Carter G. Woodson in 1915. “We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history,” said Woodson. “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”
African Americans have not always been treated with respect or given civility. During slavery, many Africans were forced to leave their homes and work all day in the hot sun for no money. They were transported on large ships and chained up. They were put at the bottom section of the vessels and received no food or water. They weren’t even allowed to use the bathroom. After arriving in the New World, they were sold as slaves for white owners. With no rights, African Americans were poorly treated, beaten by slave owners if they didn’t follow orders. Hurtful words and derogatory terms were used repeatedly by slave owners as well.
Although slavery ended in April 1865, segregation continued. Bathrooms, schools, and water fountains were labeled either white or colored. People would have to go to their designated spot. Rosa Parks was an American activist who stood up for herself against segregation. In 1955 Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. When she sat down in a seat, she was approached by a white man who demanded she gets up so he could sit down. She refused and dismissed him as she believed race shouldn’t define where a person could sit. Moments later, she was arrested by Alabama police and put in jail for a short period, and had to pay a fine. This heroic disobedience is said to have been a significant moment in the civil rights movement, and as a result, she is referred to as “the mother of the civil rights movement.” After Parks, many would go on to lead many more successful protests. Just recently, we witnessed an unforgettable protest against police brutality. In late May, after the death of George Floyd, hundreds of thousands of people around the world stood up for African Americans’ rights and anyone else subject to police brutality. By coming together and fighting for what they believed in, these protesters left their mark on history. Although times have changed and things like Jim Crow laws and slavery are in the past, African Americans still struggle against systematic racism and unfair treatment. As you celebrate this month and the many amazing African American pioneers of both the past and present, also remember all the struggles of past generations, and strive to do better for our community and work to eliminate systematic racism in your lives and the lives of those around you.