‘The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.’
Today marks the end of Black History and is a good day to reflect on why we have this month and ways we can keep the celebration going.
Black History Month started on a much smaller scale. It was originally designated as Negro History Week in 1926 and created by Carter G. Woodson. The month-long celebration of Black History began in 1976. The month of February was selected to incorporate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
So, as you can see the celebration of Black History grew from a week-long process to a full month where we get to recognize and celebrate the amazing contributions of black folks to this country. You don’t have to wait for February to learn or explore Black History—it should be taught daily in our schools, family gatherings, churches and anywhere else people get together to discuss important things.
There are times when Black History ‘may’ seem like an afterthought but that shouldn’t be the case.
The Tuskegee Airmen program was established at Tuskegee Air Field, Alabama to train black crew members to fly and fight in World War II. The term Tuskegee Airmen has been used to describe the pilots, navigators, crew chiefs and others who trained at Tuskegee Air Field.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators to serve in the U. S. Armed forces. They were able to accomplish a lot of good while also still fighting discrimination from within the Armed services and the nation due to the climate of race relations in the country.
The Tuskegee Airmen trained and prepared for war but because blacks were considered inferior, they were not viewed as deployable for overseas duty.
This all changed due to an unlikely allay for the Tuskegee Airman program. The first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt visited Tuskegee in 1941 to inspect the program and talk with candidates. She embarked on a flight with a black instructor and her response once she landed was instrumental in changing the perception of black aviators within the War Department and around the country. A picture of the first lady and pilot still in the plane after their flight was on the front page of every newspaper in America. This publicity provided a springboard for the Tuskegee Airmen and helped pave their way to see combat and help end World War II.
I had the honor to attend a traveling exhibit to help educate the nation on the Tuskegee Airmen and their contributions during World War II. This was an amazing experience for me to get a first-hand account (in their recorded words) from Tuskegee Airmen who are still alive. They describe in detail the challenges they faced and how they mustered the courage to keep moving forward even though the odds were against them.
The Tuskegee Airmen flew the P-51 Mustang air frame in combat. Their planes were painted with a distinct ‘Red Tail’ to identify the flying unit. Other units in World War II had similar distinct tail markings to signify friendly aircraft—especially needed in air-to-air dog fights.
A P-51 has been restored to include the Red Tail and travels around the country to help bring additional attention to the Tuskegee Airmen program.
Attending the ‘Red Tails’ exhibit was a great experience and I’m happy the story of the Tuskegee Airmen is still being told.
Learn more here: https://www.redtail.org/
My Black History Month tradition:
I’m an avid reader and decided years ago to read a specific book every February as my personal Black History Month tradition.
My book of choice is: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
It is easy to forget the importance Malcolm X. had from a cultural standpoint. You can follow his continual growth as he developed a better understanding of how to lead people and adjust his original thoughts. He died still trying to formulate a new platform towards race relations in America. Note: his views were dramatically changed after traveling to Mecca and learning true brotherhood.
We should celebrate Black History every day! February provides a full month to re-engage with Black History, but we don’t have to limit our celebration just to February.
How did you celebrate Black History month? What traditions do you have to make the month stand out for you? Thanks!