Heritage Month: A history to take pride in and celebrate

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Edwin Holland
  • 374th Dental Squadron
Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month."

What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied or even documented when the tradition originated.

Although African-Americans have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that we gained a respectable presence in the history books.

We owe the celebration of African-American History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

There are those that continue to wonder, "Why do we keep celebrating African-American History Month?" It is because African-American History Month is a very special time of year. Granted, we do not become less black on March 1st, and we take pride in our heritage all year long; but by setting aside this month, we set our heritage apart. We take it from the pages of history books and bring it to life. We take the time to remember, to reunite, and to rededicate ourselves to our history. And what a glorious history it is!

During African-American History Month, we honor the memory of African-Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King, as we celebrate current history makers like Gen. Colin Powell.

We remember the greatness of Jackie Robinson breaking down color barriers in sports, and then cheer as Tiger Woods sets another record. These and so many other heroes pushed color lines and then broke through them, forever altering America's history.

Take a minute to think about the great power that has emerged from great suffering.
Think about the men and women who endured the capture and beatings in Africa, but did not give up and die.

Think about the fortitude of the 12 million who endured the middle passage, packed in leaky ships, weak from starvation and disease, but did not give up and die.

Think about the strength of the families that were divided and sold on the blocks like cattle when they arrived on American shores, but did not give up and die.

Think about the courage of those who endured Jim Crow's separatism, and the beatings and hangings from hooded riders in the dead of night.

Think about those who were killed just for holding a book or learning to read, but whose children persisted, and became great inventors, writers, doctors and scientists.
None of them gave up.

It is their blood that runs through our veins. We are the children of survivors, the strongest of the strong.

We are descended from faithful and courageous men and women who beat the odds, who led us into new frontiers, and who crossed color lines, literally breaking the chains of oppression to fulfill their dreams. As the poet Maya Angelou remarked, "And, still I rise."

So I encourage you: Take strength from our history. Our freedom and equality is the product of the strength, courage and faith of those who have gone before us. Remember their stories, and live out new ones in your life which can be passed on to future generations.

That is our history. A history to take pride in and celebrate.