By C. Ron Allen
It’s February, which signals Super Bowl frenzy and Valentine’s Day passion.
But it also is Black History Month, a time when our nation acknowledges achievements by black Americans and to dedicate a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.
Black History Month traces its roots to 1926 when noted historian Carter G. Woodson, the “Father of Black History,” founded a celebration known at the time as Negro History Week. It was observed during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist and early civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. It was celebrated until 1976 when the entire month of February was designated as Black History Month.
Since then, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
Over the years there have been some criticisms that setting aside a month for black history reduces it into a “once-a-year” happening.
However, if it can help us learn, focus and prompt positive change and understanding throughout the year, then it’s well worth the designation.
Here in the Delray Beach, we have a unique opportunity in discussing black history. In a city with an overwhelming Caucasian population, African-Americans have a rich and storied past in its agricultural beginnings.
Black workers began arriving in earnest from the Bahamas and other Caribbean islands to work in the citrus fields, west of the city.
Black History Month is a tremendous opportunity for reflection. We celebrate Black History Month for the same reason we commemorate any national holiday. It tells us of the importance of race relations and where this country comes from. These issues are often unexplored.
Throughout the month, the Delray Beach Tribune will feature stories, which will tell of early, contemporary and the future of Delray Beach’s black community, including highlights on history makers.
We also will talk to African-Americans involved in various areas back in the day and then talk to young African-Americans about that same area in today’s world.
In doing so, we hope to bring a historical perspective to a variety of topics.
For instance, politics. What was it like for African-Americans to be involved in politics during the Vietnam War-era compared to the involvement of blacks in the Obama presidential campaign? What was family life like back in the day compared to the challenges of raising families now?
These stories may help shed some light on any progress made over the years, or perhaps a lack thereof, in some cases. It should at least give us a look into the perceptions of many in the All-America City.
We all need a thorough understanding of American history to assist us in understanding the present and shaping the future. Black history is a large part of American history – and a large part of the history of Delray Beach.
Black History Month can help send that message.
C. Ron Allen is editor of the Delray Beach Tribune. He can be reached at crallen@DelrayBeachTribune.com or 561-665-0151.