February 2018 . . .

Why is February Black History Month?

Why is Black History Month celebrated in February?  The answer is quite love-ly.

For Black people enslaved, a birthday was as hard to come by as justice.  But, never one to be outdone by the “impossible,” Frederick Bailey wanted a birthday—and a birthday he was going to have.  First, he'd have to find out when it was.

He’d heard that his father was the slave owner from whom he'd escaped, so he couldn't ask him.  His mother, Harriet Bailey, had been sold away from him when he was only five, so he couldn't ask her.  But, he could remember stories she'd told him before they’d been separated.

She said he was born on a Maryland plantation in the ‘teens.  He chose the mid-teens, 1818, for his birth year.  She always called him her “little valentine.”  He chose Valentine’s Day for his birth date.  With that, Frederick finally had the birthday he'd always wanted: February 14, 1818.

Then . . .

In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson wanted to solve a problem.  For centuries, Americans were taught to believe that African Americans had “no history or culture.”  Now that is, of course, impossible.  Everyone inherits the history and culture of their family elders.  But, this horrific idea was used to justify slavery and segregation by making Black people seem less than human.

Dr. Woodson had a better idea: he’d tell the truth.  He would research and share the true history of Black people the world over.  

To promote his idea, he created Negro History Week (now, Black History Month).   He chose February in honor of two birthdays.  Born on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was the first American president to take action to end slavery.  Born on February 14, 1818 Harriet Bailey’s “little Valentine” became the noted Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist, and publisher, Frederick Douglass.  As a special advisor to President Lincoln, he proposed—and the president wrote and signed—the “Emancipation Proclamation”; ending slavery.    

Such is the power of love.

We never know how our children will remember what we say or what our words will mean when they need them most.  Frederick's mother—an enslaved woman with so little to give—empowered her son for life with the gift of her enduring love. 

For this love-ly reason, February is Black History Month.  

© Janus Adams 2018

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