By: Phyllis Bivins-Hudson/Najla Alexander
Black History, like all history, is essential. However, there is a focus on Black History at least one month out of the year because this particular history must be told and kept alive, especially since some in government would prefer that African American History not be taught.
For commentary around that, check out Florida and the new policies being implemented by the governor. Of special importance also is the fact that another growing audience has been diligently working at erasing Black History/African American History from the annals of American History.
Therefore, if once a year is the only opportunity to share this thread of knowledge on a broad scale, then so be it because honoring this history helps create community and connection among us all.
In this blog, I won't include the usual line-up of names common to the month's celebration, referencing those respected names such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and so on.
Instead, I'm going to share three other Black Gold Nuggets and ask that you conduct your research to study further and show yourself approved.
Black Gold Nuggets for pondering…
- BLACK GOLD NUGGET #1:
Who do you say Black people are? It seems like a simple enough question. However, to begin addressing that question, consider that there is so much hidden and lost history of melanin people. And today, several deliberate and exuberant factions of the population show a growing interest in discovering this history. People rightly want to know who they indeed are and the secrecy that shrouds this history.
When we say Black people, depending on who you ask, the answer may be African Americans from the US, Caribbean Americans, African Americans from Africa, or any Black people who consider themselves a part of the diaspora, etc.
Each of those responses is a different experience. It is that experience which sets Black people apart. It doesn't create a dichotomy but a means of differentiating them as far as background is concerned.
With all that has been said, another question that arises is, Why has there been such diligence to hide the history of a people who has done so much in the way of helping to build this country and the world?
- BLACK GOLD NUGGET #2:
As a Black American, can your roots be traced to America before 1619? It has also been said that there were Black people already living in America before the first enslaved Africans were dropped off in August of 1619 at Point Comfort, which is now Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia. But history would have us believe that the first Black people arrived on slave ships.
The latter idea eclipses the attempts of many African Americans looking to discover who they truly are because it purports that African American history only began at the arrival of the first slave ship of enslaved people.
Since a good number of us have no idea where to start a search with respect to knowing from where our relatives hailed in Africa or where they were dropped off in America, it means even if we have some knowledge of our beginnings, it most often starts with the shores of America rather than Africa.
However, the history of those Black people here before the slave ships and those brought here on the slave ships is out there somewhere. The good news is that people are making significant progress in uncovering it.
Knowing from which African country our ancestors came would set many of us on a different trajectory of our historical journeys. An inquiring mind would want to know if Black people lived in America before the Africans who were forced from Africa and who these predecessors were.
If they existed, it certainly begs another question, If you consider yourself an African American, can you trace your roots in America before 1619?
If you are one of those people who has always had ruminating questions about your past, perhaps this shared sliver of information may be the spark you need to conduct your own research and uncover your actual history as opposed to the one you have been force-fed.
- BLACK GOLD NUGGET #3:
What were some of the mechanics of the Underground Railroad? Ask many African Americans about the Underground Railroad, and their response will generally include the name of Harriet Tubman.
This is because Ms. Tubman was responsible for leading many people to freedom. However, the Underground Railroad didn't begin or end with Harriet Tubman. Wherever there were and are enslaved African Americans, there was and is resistance and therefore plans—whether foiled or not—to escape. While Ms. Tubman played more than a significant role in leading enslaved people to freedom, she did not do so alone. People of varying backgrounds lent their support in a manner that could have cost them their lives.
The Underground Railroad required ingenuity, commitment, secrecy, trust, courage, intelligence, empathy, and more. The ingenuity was in the disguises and forgeries that took place. Some of the ingenious disguises included secret rooms built behind walls where enslaved people on the Underground Railroad would remain hidden.
At the same time, slave catchers searched for them in the homes of suspected sympathizers. Other ingenious disguises included hiding an enslaved person under a woman's petticoat and full skirt. But probably the most ingenious of all the disguises was the escape of Henry Box Brown, an enslaved man who spent his savings of $86.00 to mail himself to freedom from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box.
There are other stories similar to these, so spend some time researching the enslaved's lives and how they fought for their freedom. For instance, examine the King of the Underground Railroad from Syracuse, New York, Rev. Jermain Loguen. Be enlightened!
These are just three questions to ponder during this month when we celebrate the rich history of African Americans.
I encourage you to read these three questions, think about them, and conduct your research to see what else can be uncovered. Then consider sharing your new knowledge with others. Finally, don't let February 28th be your final day to honor and appreciate the history of African Americans.
Make it a point to celebrate Black History in the same way American History is studied because Black History is American History.
Until next time, keep flying on your own wings.