The month of February, annually, is designated Black History Month throughout the USA. Here at ReNude Pride, in addition to the historical feature, we also honour the same gender loving (gay) and the bare practitioner (naturist/nudist) lifestyles of the African-American culture. In addition, we recognize that this culture is not restricted to focus only one month out of the entire year!
In 1607, the first permanent English settlement was established in the “New World” (North America as it is known today). The location was Jamestown, Virginia – which remains a tourist attraction. The first slaves captured from Africa were brought here and sold or traded in late August, 1619. Thus established, slavery was a binding and legal institution throughout the colonial era and up until the conclusion of the American Civil War (fought over the slavery issue) in 1865.
Despite the Declaration of Independence stating the basic “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” clause, the United States of America did not recognize slaves as people but instead as property. Slaves were denied (legally) property rights, education, freedom to travel and most importantly, their dignity. It was as though these captives from Africa did not exist. This situation implanted the idea of racism that remains a major issue in the USA legal, political and social structures even at this time. The killing of a slave – for whatever reason – was not considered murder nor a crime. The stealing of a slave wasn’t seen as kidnapping and/or enforced detention but rather viewed as property theft.
For almost a century and a half after the US civil war, the history of African-Americans was, for all intents and purposes, completely ignored here in almost every public school system. In the minds of educators, administrators and the general public, “they” (Black Americans) came here as slaves and were freed after the civil war and that was enough acknowledgement of African-American history.
In 1926, noted Black historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week in February, annually, to be known as “Negro History Week.” This particular week was selected because it contained the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and the birthday of Frederick Douglass, a noted Black American advocate for abolishing slavery (February 14).
The initial Negro History Week in 1926 was received with limited recognition. The state departments of education in Delaware, North Carolina and West Virginia endorsed the observation as did the public school administrations of the cities of Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Carter G. Woodson wrote in The Negro Journal in support of the celebration: “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Regardless of the lack of “official” support for Negro History Week, within the African-American community the reaction and response was dramatic and overwhelming. No matter the ignoring of this occasion by general society and the public school systems, Black churches, fraternal and social organizations and individual educators enthusiastically adopted the concept as an essential cause. It became a distinct and popular annual event involving competitions (both athletic and academic), enactments and festivities. Carter G. Woodson’s ideal instilled a sense of determination and pride within the Black community and race. This achievement earned him the title “Father of Black History Month.”
Throughout the 1930’s, Negro History Week continued to grow in acceptance, slowly but surely. It contradicted the White American myth in the South’s “lost cause” that argued that slaves had been well-treated, fairly cared for and that the Civil War was nothing more than a war of “northern aggression.”
The ongoing development, growth and success of the original Negro History Week soon produced positive results not only within the Persons of Colour community but also in the society in general. The number of states recognizing the designation gradually increased as did the number of businesses, local and national, who identified the opportunity for expansion and increase of profits.
The first observance of the entire month of February as Black History Month occurred at Kent State University in 1970. Then-President Gerald Ford was the first president to acknowledge and publicly recognize Black History Month during the celebration of the USA bicentennial in 1976, fifty years following Carter G. Woodson’s and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History first Negro History Week observance.
The twenty-first century has brought remarkable achievements to the contents of Black History Month. In November, 2008, Barack Hussein Obama was elected the very first African-American president of the USA – ever! His two terms of office were from January, 2009, until January, 2016.
In November, 2019, Kamela Harris was elected the very first woman vice-president and the first African-American vice-president. Her first term of office is from January, 2020, until January, 2024.
Carter G. Woodson is indeed proud of his Black History Month and the fact that his community’s history is still being made, today!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry here is planned for Friday, February 3, 2023, and the proposed topic is: “Photo Essay: Man-2-Man!”