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African American History Forum

Black History Month Needs More Than Just 29 Days

Focus brings mixed feelings: Is celebration important or just a token effort?

Matthew Miller
Lansing State Journal

Pero Dagbovie teaches black history for a living. He has written one book on black history as a field and concept and another on the history of the black history movement. When he talks about Black History Month, he uses words like "necessary."

And, sometimes, words like Catch-22.

"I like Black History Month because it draws special attention," said Dagbovie, a history professor at Michigan State University, "but it does 'allow' people to not pay attention to black history during the rest of the year."

There are many for whom Black History Month is an important celebration.

"For me personally, it's sort of like a birthday," said Marcia Spivey, a student at Cooley Law School.

"My life matters every day, but during the month of February, my cultural ancestral history is celebrated."

But the question of whether Black History Month is still relevant is one that "a lot of people have been grappling with," Dagbovie said.

When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926, he wasn't trying to establish a permanent annual tradition.

In fact, he was looking toward a day when black history would be integrated into the general run of history and carving out time in February to pay attention to it wouldn't be necessary.

But more than 80 years later, Black History Month is an annual tradition, complete with sales, television specials and school assemblies. There are times when it seems to be used more for marketing purposes than idealistic ones.

And some have concluded that it has run its course.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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