The Other Black History

The Past as Progress

On May 13, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signed into law a measure requiring public schools to teach black history. The black history law requires lessons on slavery, the passage of slaves to America, abolition, and the contributions of blacks to American society. "The history of African-Americans must not be minimized or trivialized," Chiles said. "The lessons of history should not be limited to one month or one day on the school-year calendar."

Like Governor Chiles, I agree that a people's history should not be limited to one month of the year, especially the shortest month of the year. But more important than the time constraints placed on the learning of black history is what kind of black history the state education department and local school boards will mandate. My concern is that black history is being taught from only one perspective: victimization.

Black History Month has become boring. Every year it follows the same predictable path: Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board of Education, segregation, and endless stories about the ordeal of slavery. This only helps to promote what Black History Month was supposed to eliminate: the myth that black Americans are historical victims of racism and have never contributed anything to the building of America except through slave labor. The spirit of self-reliance, an integral part of the black American heritage,...

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