The shortest month of the year hosts a number of celebrations: Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, even the Super Bowl is in February.Though my focus every year is on Black History Month.
Black History Month dates back to 1970 when Black educators and students first celebrated it from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28 of that year. It would become a national holiday six years later when former President Gerald Ford recognized it in 1976.
I cannot speak to what this month means to other people, but to me, it’s a time to remember Black people that we do not talk about often enough, if at all.
Yes, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and George Washington Carver are people we should remember and talk about. They contributed a lot to the betterment of life for Black people in this country. But Black History Month to me needs acknowledgment for so many more people.
Big Mama Thornton has come to my mind recently. She was an R&B singer who found success in the late 1940s and 1950s with some of her most famous songs being, “Ball ‘n’ Chain” and “Hound Dog.”
The former was made famous by Janis Joplin and the latter one became one of Elvis Presley’s most popular songs as well.
Thornton is in the Blues Hall of Fame, and “Ball ‘n’ Chain” has been recognized as one of the 500 most influential rock and roll songs according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The NBA season is in full swing and the majority of players in the NBA are Black.
The first one though was Earl Lloyd in 1950, which was two years after the NBA was formed.
He played for the Washington Capitals, Syracuse Nationals, and the Detroit Pistons.
He ended up being pretty average in the NBA, with his career points per game average barely surpassing eight. But his impact was felt across the sport and still is to this day.
Madam CJ Walker is widely regarded as the first woman to be described as a self-made millionaire, due to selling her hair care products.
She got into the hair business by selling hair care products for another woman named Annie Malone and used the knowledge she gained from that experience to create her own product and make millions of dollars off said product.
There are so many more people than we could list: Fred Hampton, Little Richard, Marsha P. Johnson, Nina Simone and so many more.
Whether it was through entertainment, activism, invention, or entrepreneurship, there are so many people to remember this month and the 28 or 29 days in February are just not enough.
I do think I need to voice the bitterness I feel during this month. In far too many places the majority of the history of black people is not taught in required classes but in elective courses. Black history is American history and offering this piece of history as an option instead of making it a necessity is a disservice to all of us because understanding modern America requires understanding our complete history.
My small history lesson is so minuscule when it comes to learning about Black history, and I encourage you to go and learn more about the people I named and more.
You’ll be doing yourself a real service to understanding American history.