A Voice to the Voiceless: Black History Month

The March on Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. is just one of the many important moments in black history

Steve Schapiro

The March on Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. is just one of the many important moments in black history

Kalea Reeves, Staff Writer

History is always told by the victors, and in American history that is usually the white men. However, every February our country promotes the unheard yet equally important history of the African American community with Black History Month.

Carter G. Woodson, whose parents were enslaved, is credited for starting this important movement. In 1926 when he recognized the whitewashing of history taking place in the American school system, Woodson proposed a week for students to learn about the astounding accomplishments of black people in America. In 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded this week into a full month, and this year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of Black History Month.

“[We must] seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” President Ford said.

The purpose of this month for individuals is to learn more about black history and the important—and often unknown—figures who helped shape it. To help you start this journey, here is a list of a few of these remarkable people.

Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant lawyer who won the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka before the Supreme Court, which officially declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional in 1954.
John Lewis was a representative from Georgia for 33 years up until his death last year. He was a passionate civil rights activist, and he was arrested multiple times for his protests. Lewis walked beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the March on Selma in 1965.
W.E.B. DuBois was a civil rights activist during the Jim Crow era and founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which remains one of the leading organizations for African Americans.
Maya Angelou, a prominent black author and poet from St. Louis, was most known for her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, telling her experience with racism as a teenager.
James Baldwin was a black novelist who spoke brilliantly and eloquently as a civil rights activist. His novels such as The Fire Next Time and If Beale Street Could Talk swept the nation and furthered the civil rights movement.

In addition to educating yourself on the remarkable people and stories that surround African American history, the NAACP released a list of ways for black people and their allies to celebrate, including:

Support black businesses, authors, and creatives.
Donate to a black organization.
Explore black music.
Become actively anti-racist by calling out racism and prejudice in your community.
Read Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Register to vote.

Each year, the month is assigned a specific theme; this year is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” This focuses on the African Diaspora and the dispersal of black families across the nation.

With the recent protests and calls for racial justice that flared up last May, this Black History Month and its celebrations are on many people’s minds. It is impossible to change the past, but by learning about it and giving a voice to those who were voiceless, we can work together as a nation and as one people to build a better future.