Americans celebrate Black History Month during February, a celebration credited to Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard scholar and son of a former slave.
In an effort to bring attention to the contributions of black Americans, Woodson organized the first Negro History week in 1926 and chose the second week of February in honor of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
We cannot separate black history and American history. Woodson once said, "If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thoughts of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.''
Black Americans have a history rich in inspiration, heroism and value. Black history is a challenge and a call, a voice of the past asking what we are prepared to do to ensure that the slaves, the activists and martyrs did not dream and die in vain.
Black history is to ask many questions and try to understand the why. Black history is full of leaders, past and present, who changed the lives of Americans, both blacks and whites.
Black history invites the historians to help America to reflect on the suffering, the extensive oppression, humiliation of peonage and denial of freedom centuries ago of African slaves who arrived on the shores of America and later helped to build it up.
Black history presents a time in the life of black Americans to love their fellow man, to pray, hoping that what divides us one day can unite us and human brotherhood can be attained.
Black history is to question why black American citizens have to suffer humiliation, marked by racial discrimination and the need to struggle for justice.
Black history is to celebrate the significance of the many contributions and achievements made by black Americans to the fields of arts, humanities, science, space exploration, medicine, finance, education, the military and politics. Their actions show us that the only limitations they had to accept were those they put on themselves.
I invite you to join in celebrating the life of the many black Americans, the significance of their achievements and contributions.
Let us celebrate the life of Douglass, who after escaping from slavery became not only a leader of the abolitionist movement, but also a social reformer, an orator, a writer and statesman; W.E.B. Dubois, an intellectual and an attacker of injustice and a defender of freedom; Booker T. Washington, an educator, author, orator and political leader who became a dominant figure in the African-American community and one of the principal organizers of Tuskegee Institute; Henry Louis Gates Jr., an educator, scholar and professor at Harvard University; Ralph Bunche, a diplomat and political scientist who in 1950 received the Nobel Peace Prize; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner; Matthew Henson, a black explorer and associate of Admiral Robert Peary in his various expeditions to the North Pole; U.S. Reps. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Shirley Chisholm; Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and President Barack Obama.
These brave Americans show us this is the time to celebrate their achievements and contributions. Their actions have shown us that the only limitations we must accept are those we put on ourselves. Let us honor their lives, service, courage, vision and commitments that brought honor to their families, their race and their beloved country.
Max Laudun lives in Spring Hill.