Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman. These and others are familiar around the world for their contributions to history, particularly Black History. While each aforementioned person helped change the narrative of American history, they are but a few who penned this nation’s story.
Why don’t we celebrate the “hidden figures” of African-American history? Why do so many of us celebrate them during Black History Month?
There are so many untold stories of mistreatment and triumph that have been intentionally left out of history books. However, that should not prevent people of color from educating ourselves with it. For instance, a woman by the name of Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman also known as “Hottentot Venus” was persuaded by William Dunlop to travel with him to England to make money. Saartjie was a Khoikhoi woman. Due to her distinct features she was considered a freak of nature in England. As a result, she was placed on exhibition for all to view. For years she was placed on display as a “sexual exhibition.” After this, her body was used for scientific and medical research that contributed to European ideals of black female sexuality.
This is only a snippet of her story. However, it is one of many that often goes overlooked in Black History. As people of color we must be intentional about acquiring knowledge of the past. It’s also important to know that our history did not begin with slavery. We must take further steps to dig deep and educate ourselves about who we are. It’s time to stop relying on what textbooks want us to know. We should celebrate and learn Black history every day of our lives. To start we can:
- Research your own family heritage to discover your roots. No matter what you find, be proud of it; after all, it’s where you came from.
- Read books about unknown African-Americans who go unrecognized. There are a number of books that provide accurate counts of history. Take some time to select one about someone you’ve heard little about. It’ll empower you in an unexpected way.
- Have engaging conversations with the elders in your community or your family. Many of them lived through the struggles we read about.
- Watch documentaries or movies that focus on the truth of black history.
- Visit museums that display various aspects of history.
- Celebrate the present black history each day. Acknowledge someone you know who’s doing great things. Whether it’s in your community, family or job, celebrate a great black person you know.
We often say that black history is American history. We all know this to be true. However, if we fail to educate ourselves and our families about who we truly are we may be bound to repeat history.
Liz Lampkin is a Love, Relationships, and Lifestyle writer. Follow her on social media @Liz_Lampkin.