Commentary: Should Black History Month Be a Global Holiday?

The term "Black" encompasses several groups of people from hundreds of different countries and cultures — it's time for our celebrations to reflect that.

Posted: 02/17/2012 12:29 PM EST
Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr, Global Holiday

For decades, Black History Month has been a time for African-Americans to reflect on the contributions members of our community have made to the United States and the world, but now that our definition of Black has expanded, shouldn’t our holiday expand, too?


As children, many can remember gazing at the brightly colored Black History Month posters every year that featured beautiful pictures of African-American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. But, unfortunately, it is not until college that most Black Americans learn about the importance of Black historical figures from outside the U.S., like Haiti’s Toussaint L'Ouverture or Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, while all along they were making friends and interacting with peers that may have been first- or second-generation immigrants from these nations.


Despite living and working amongst each other for years, African-Americans and Black people from other parts of the globe still harbor hostilities toward each other and hold onto harmful stereotypes about each other.


When Carter G. Woodson created Black History Month (then Negro History Week) in 1926, it was his vision to bring light to Black history that was overlooked, ignored and suppressed by mainstream historians. Now that Black History Month has solidified its place, it may be time that we revise its purview to include those Black figures who have been overlooked and ignored by African-Americans in our attempt to establish our historical respect in America.


The term "Black" is perhaps one of the broadest racial signifiers and encompasses several groups of people from hundreds of different countries and cultures.


Although making the holiday more inclusive would swell the ranks of those celebrated, it is possible. Black people in the U.K. have managed to organize Black History Month celebrations there during the month of October despite having a Black population composed of a number of smaller communities from several nations in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.


A global Black history celebration would not drown out African-American history but, instead, create a greater global appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions made by African-Americans while honoring the legacies of those who also share in the "Black" that makes up Black history.


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(Photo: News /Landov)

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