January might be a better choice

By Bryan Richardson

The last few days of Black History Month are coming up this week. We all have our ways of celebrating it such as learning some history, watching an NBA game, hugging a black person or ignoring it.

Personally, I use the end of Black History Month to make a special wish. Every year, my hope is for Black History Month to no longer be held in its current state.

By that, I mean I would like to see the month changed from February. It’s just not a good month, and I’m not talking about it being the shortest month of the year.

Here are some black history facts about Black History Month.

Negro History Week was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It was celebrated on the second week of February for the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The first celebration of Black History Month was held at Kent State University in 1970. In 1976, the federal government acknowledged the expansion of Black History Month.

This is when the problem started. Washington’s Birthday, now commonly known as Presidents’ Day, is a federal holiday on the third Monday of February, starting in 1971.

Unfortunately, Black History Month and Presidents’ Day don’t mix together due to the little matter of slavery followed by institutionalized racism.

That’s not to say these presidents didn’t do great things for the country. However, I’m not going to pretend Washington and some others would be all for my current free status.

Let’s play a little game. I’ll name the Presidential Black Relations All-Stars. I’ll be simplifying a complicated issue here, so allow me a few things.

One, it’s not about the attitude of the president but rather the actions taken during his presidency. A president not being listed doesn’t necessarily make him a racist.

Two, slavery basically lasted until the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. Owning slaves became illegal in the latter portion of 19th century, but segregation continued to perpetuate the myth that blacks were inferior, a key point to justifying slavery.

Three, I’ll include every Democratic president after the Civil Rights Movement. There are obviously black Republicans, but the large majority of black people vote Democratic.

Four, I’m not a historian. I’m likely to miss some key points.

Let’s begin. Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment abolishing slavery is the captain. The duo of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson helped produce the Civil Right Act of 1964. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were Democrats after the Civil Right Act, which is all that it takes apparently.

I’ve listed six out of the 44 presidents we’ve had as a nation. That’s about 13.6 percent of our presidents.

By comparison, eight presidents owned slaves while in the White House – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James Polk and Zachary Taylor.

An additional four presidents – Martin Van Buren, William Harrison, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant – owned slaves during their life but not while president.

The mojo of Black History Month would be better if it wasn’t in a month where we celebrate slaveholders for a day.

If February isn’t suitable, where should we move it? It’s as simple as moving it back a month into January.

The Emancipation Proclamation became official Jan. 1, 1863, stipulating that those enslaved in the Confederate states were freed. That’s kind of an important day. Why not build Black History Month around that?

Every third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. MLK Day basically serves as the unofficially start to Black History Month. Why not have it actually take place during Black History Month?

I’m not sure what to do with this information, but I like to imagine President Obama reading every newspaper in the nation on a daily basis.

Maybe he’ll read this column and start sparking the change, and I’ll be known as a Black History Month legend. I like the sound of that.

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