February is Black History Month. It’s an observance with deep roots, whose precursor was created in 1926 in the United States when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose that week because of Lincoln’s birthday on 2/12 and the birthday of Frederick Douglass on 2/14, days that black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
I knew about Carter G. Woodson, but I had no idea that black communities had been celebrating Lincoln and Douglass together for so many years! Did you know that? There’s so much history that isn’t taught in our schools — so much history that I, as a white person, have not been invited to own as “my history.” As part of our Unitarian Universalist commitment to the work of anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy culture, I’ve been challenging myself to take black history into my heart as my history and the history of my ancestors — not as something separate from “regular” history (think about it: isn’t that what we’re taught – that “Black History” is somehow extra?).
In 1866 Frances Ellen W. Harper took the stage at the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention and declared, “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.” Harper, a black woman who was a member of a Unitarian church in Philadelphia as well as a member in an African Methodist Episcopal church, reminds us that trampling doesn’t have to be physical, or even intentional. When we remain ignorant of black history, when there’s a whole month devoted to it that’s been recognized by the federal government for more than 40 years, we are trampling our African American siblings!
I’m challenging myself to learn — and share — something from Black History every day in February. Will you join me? I’m hoping to post what I’m learning — and links to more resources and local events — on social media like our UUCW Facebook page, Black Lives Matter to WI UUs page (BLM2WUU) and my own Facebook profile. You can avail yourself of those resources, or perhaps send me things to share that you’ve discovered or learned.
Together — we can learn our history, own our history, and let it change and motivate us.
Sending love to you, and an invitation to the journey,
The Rev. Suzelle Lynch, Minister
P.S. One place to begin is https://asalh.org/ — The Association for the Study of African American Life and History — the organization established in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and the founders of Black History Month.