February is Black History Month, a time to recognize the role of African Americans in U.S. History. Many other countries also have devoted a month to honor their ethnic roots. The recent trend has also been to honor, not only the African American population, but all other minorities and ethnic people as well.
The celebration of black history came about as early as 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson, with the Association for the Study of Negro Life, dedicated the second week in February as “Negro History Week.” This sparked new interest in black history.
Celebrations in honor of important African American people followed. Early in the 1960s and 1970s many local cities and states began to honor this new holiday. It was officially made a federal acknowledgement in 1976 by expanding Black History Week to Black History Month.
This came six years after the turning point of the first Black History Month affirmation at Kent State University in 1970.
The controversy with this holiday came when people questioned black history’s usefulness and fairness. These debates led to honoring other important minority heroes during the month of February.
The true importance of Black History Month is not just honoring African Americans, whom have often been left out of some past history publications, but to honor our personal histories as well.
As Sir Michael Howard states; “The true use of history, whether civil or military, is not to make man clever for the next time, it is to make him wise forever.”
A wise man knows his history. We learn from our past, which makes a better future. We don’t have to be a military logistic officer or a politician to desire this information. Everyone can learn from our ancestry. Where did we come from? What did we do? How did we survive? We can learn to honor our personal family heroes and the heroes within.
Learning about the past can also tell you a lot about yourself. Perhaps your love of art comes from a gifted mother or grandmother. Perhaps you have a famous ancestor that helped form U.S. History. Many African Americans have not been honored until recently so researching your roots may lead to a historic tidbit. Medical and genetic information can now also be obtained by doing genealogical research.
Fairfield County has a wonderful resource through the genealogy society. They have partnered with the Fairfield County Museum this month to provide extra resources and information on investigating African American ancestry in Fairfield County.
Copies of the WPA Slaves Narratives and other documents will be on exhibit during the month of February at the Fairfield County Museum. Local historical researcher Kadena Woodward will be assisting patrons in seeking information about their heritage. She is housed in the first floor parlor at the museum during the month. Woodward will also be giving a lecture at the Christ Central Church (next door to the museum) on Thursday, February 21 at 11 a.m. These events are free to the public.
The Fairfield County Museum has also partnered with the Fairfield County Schools to present several field trips for the students. The events include museum tours, lectures and trips to historic sites. Resources and assistance for these trips are being made possible not only by the Fairfield County Museum but also with their collaborators: the Fairfield County Council, Fairfield Genealogy Chapter, Fairfield County Arts Council and the Fairfield County Historical Society.
Fairfield County can continue to support its past by supporting history in the county. History is not only in our schools and museums, but it is within us, our innate desire to search for who we are.
“Unless we learn from history, we are destined to repeat it. This is no longer merely an academic exercise, but may contain our world’s fate and our destiny.” – Alex Haley