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We Need A Fresh Take On Black History Month

An important part of Black History Month in the US is the biographies of notable African Americans who made history. One could easily assume these individuals transcended their racial group by being so excellent. You would have to be forgiven for not knowing that not only did W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey interact, but DuBois called Garvey "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America" while saving some other choice words for Booker T. Washington. Louis Armstrong did not “dig” Josephine Baker for demanding that she play to desegregated audiences according to a transcript in Ricky Riccardi’s “What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years” (2012). Malcolm X and James Baldwin debated in 1963 and so on. Even comic books don’t keep such a strict focus on singular characters the way BHM approaches history. Even Black Panther has a team and friends.

Not only are the biographies siloed, but the great man theory of history is also almost magnified as the great men (and sometimes women when anyone remembers) are separated from the people they came from like so much background noise. The historical information is far from being parsed like A People's History of the United States. Stories about the groups of African Americans that made up the NAACP or any other organization are rarely told. In fact not only are groups eschewed most individuals are also in favor of one great man of history- the man President Barack Obama insisted on referring to as “a preacher from Georgia”. Further still, MLK’s contributions are boiled down to a sliver of the end of one speech.

Read the rest at Sublation Magazine


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