In Uganda, like in many other African nations and Diaspora states, every second month of the year (February) is always celebrated as the “Black History Month”.
It is also known as African-American History Month in the U.S; an annual observance in Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States.
The “Black History Month” began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in the month of February, as well as in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland in October.
How Black History Month Came About
The precursor to Black history month 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".
This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950) both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century. From the event's initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation's public schools.
The first Negro history week was met with a lukewarm response, gaining the cooperation of the Departments of Education of some states in the United States. Despite this far from universal acceptance, the event was regarded by Woodson as “one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association”, and plans for a repeat of the event on an annual basis continued apace.
At the time of Negro history week's launch, Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society.
By 1929, The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions; officials with the State Departments of Educations of “every state with considerable Negro population” had made the event known to that state's teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event.
Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro history week during this initial interval, with the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.
Negro history week was met with an enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers and interest from progressive whites.
United States: Black History Month (1970)
Black history month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2, 1970 – February 28, 1970. Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.
United Kingdom (1987)
Black history month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987. It was organized through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway. It was first celebrated in London.
In 1995, after a motion by politician Jean Augustine, representing the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore in Ontario, Canada's House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month and honored Black Canadians.
In 2008, Senator Donald Oliver moved to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month, which was unanimously approved.
Republic of Ireland (2014)
In 2014 the Republic of Ireland became only the fourth country in the world to officially celebrate Black history month. Ireland's Great Hunger Institute notes: “Black History Month Ireland was initiated in Cork in 2010. This location seems particularly appropriate as, in the nineteenth century, the city was a leading center of abolition, and the male and female anti-slavery societies welcomed a number of black abolitionists to lecture there, including Charles Lenox Remond and Frederick Douglass.
Black history month often sparks an annual debate about the continued criticism usefulness and fairness of a designated month dedicated to the history of one race. Criticisms include questions over whether it is appropriate to confine the celebration of black history to one month, as opposed to integration of black history into the mainstream education the rest of the year. Another criticism is that contrary to the original inspiration for Black History Month, which was a desire to redress the manner in which American schools failed to represent black historical figures as anything other than slaves or colonial subjects; Black History Month reduces complex historical figures to overly simplified objects of hero worship. Other critics refer to the celebration as racist.
Actor and director Morgan Freeman and actress Stacey Dash have criticized the concept of declaring only one month as Black History Month, Freeman noted, “I don't want a Black history month. Black history is American history.”
Among others, notable inspirational black people who have played a key role in the world and American history have been recognized.
Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968), King was a pivotal figure in the non-violent civil rights movement. During the 1950s and 1960s, he sought to improve race relations and overturn discrimination in American society. He is remembered for his powerful speeches which sought to bring about a united society, where race did not act as a barrier.
Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), Mandela spent most of his life campaigning for an end to apartheid in South Africa. After 27 years in prison, he was released and was able to be the first elected President in post-apartheid, South Africa. He was also admired for his forgiveness and willingness to reach out to the white community in South Africa.
Barack Obama - First US President of African origin. Obama served two terms as President and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama implemented health care reform and spoke about the need for Americans to remain united, despite differences in political opinion.
It’s not just for the Month, but the need to celebrate the long achieved freedom from the white supremacy and harsh rule!