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Perspective: What history month?

Sarah and Angelina Grimke
U.S. Library of Congress
Sarah and Angelina Grimke

Almost every February someone asks, if there’s a Black History Month, why isn’t there a White History Month? OK. Black History Month, originally Negro History Week, was created by African American historian, Carter G. Woodson, in 1926. He stated, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile traditions, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” For centuries before and decades after 1926, the role and contributions of Africans and African Americans were all but erased from the American curriculum and popular culture, creating a picture of us as merely inferior to our White counterparts.

Things have no doubt gotten better in representing African Americans and other historically minoritized groups, but what about our White sisters and brothers? So, here is the most controversial thing I will probably ever say. I actually support an Antiracist White History Month. I have talked to countless numbers of White folks that know absolutely nothing about White advocates for antiracism throughout history. John Fee, Helen Hunt Jackson, the Grimke Sisters, Jim Zwerg, Tim Wise, and many others resisted the notion of racial supremacy to see humanity in all. This is important because if White folks don’t learn about the intersection of both Black history and historic White antiracist, then antiracism seems like a “minorities only” project and absolves them of making the choice to commit to antiracism.

 

So if anyone thinks there is a necessity for a White History Month, even though White folks have been the center of the American curriculum for centuries, then let’s take a month to focus on White antiracists, lest they become a negligible factor in the thought of the world.

 

I’m Joseph Flynn and that’s my perspective. Happy Black History Month!

 

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.