Celebrating Black History Month

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jamion Speed
  • 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron
Pop quiz - what famous person invented the light bulb?  Sorry, no multiple choice answers here, but if you guessed Thomas Edison then good job!  Second question - who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation?  If you knew it was President Abraham Lincoln then I assume you know a little bit of history.  Last question - what athlete left the biggest imprint during the 1936 Berlin Games in what was considered the greatest Olympic performances that defied Adolf Hitler's intent to showcase Nazi ideology of Aryan racial supremacy?  If you knew the answer to that question was African-American track star Jesse Owens then most would say you've earned an appearance on Jeopardy.  For me and everyone else, I suppose we all learned something new, thus beginning our focus into Black History Month for 2015.

Although we usually think of history as something of the past, we also live it every day of our lives.  In the spirit of celebrating Black History Month, last year I took time to do some internet research into my own personal African American heritage instead of letting February just "pass me by."  What I discovered was that my family's military service in the Army, Navy, and Marines spans over 150 years, and I even surprisingly stumbled upon old World War I and II draft cards to share with my wife and many of our family members.  Despite this great find, I wondered if I would have ever been this enthusiastic about doing such extensive research without being prompted by our country's observance of black history.  Better yet, I thought to myself, "When did Black History Month actually begin?"

This year marks a full century of Black History Month's origin into becoming one of the most celebrated times every year.  Specifically, in September of 1915, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was founded by noted historian Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland in an effort to promote the many selfless contributions and accomplishments by African Americans, as well as those of African heritage.  As noted by www.history.com, "Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the group sponsored a national Negro History Week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass" (2010).  Combined with the actions of mayors all over the country and the Civil Rights Movement, the evolution of Negro History Week into Black History Month was brought on by President Gerald Ford in 1976.  Since then, each one of our presidents has kept that official designation going, and interestingly enough, other countries also celebrate black history.

For decades, African Americans have been fundamental in shaping our country's history in the form of Civil Rights activists, authors, musicians, inventors, athletes, military service and artists among many things.  For example, the U.S. Post Office Department issued a stamp in 1940 honoring Booker T. Washington, who was born a slave, yet founded Alabama's Tuskegee Normal Industrial School in 1888.  In 1939, Doris "Dorie" Miller enlisted in the Navy and was awarded the Navy Cross for carrying injured sailors to safety during the Pearl Harbor attack then manning a machine gun until told to abandon ship.  Less than a decade later, Jackie Robinson smashed color barriers in sports, becoming the first African American player in Major League Baseball.  In 1983, Guion S. Bluford, who began his career as an Air Force pilot, became the first African American astronaut to travel in space as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger.  As we all know, President Barack Obama was elected as our country's first African American on Nov. 4, 2008.  However, more recently on July 1, 2014, Vice Admiral Michelle Howard became the first woman to be pinned with a fourth star in the Navy's 236-year history.
No matter whether your heritage originates from Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, or the Middle East, our nation's history is ultimately written based on the life we live and the contributions we all make.  I encourage everyone reading this article to take the time to do a little research this month into your own family history or a famous African American and share it with a family member, friend or coworker.  Nevertheless, in the spirit of Black History Month, may this February be the beginning of celebrating black history in your own way that becomes an honorable tradition each year.

Information for this article was found at www.history.com.