Commentary: One month of Black History is not enough for us

Commentary: One month of Black History is not enough for us
February 08
03:00 2018

By James B. Ewers Jr.

Black History Month is here. It is a time when we celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of African-American people.

Parades happen, special church services occur and special awards are presented. It is a time for both reflection and joy. I am a baby boomer, thus my reflections go back a long way.

I can remember when we only had one week to honor the contributions of black people. Carter G. Woodson is in the minds of many, especially of my generation, the chief architect of black history commemorations. They were traditionally held during the second week of February. The second week of February was chosen because Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was on Feb. 12 and Frederick Douglass’ birthday was on Feb. 14.

My earliest memories of Black History Week started while I was in elementary school. I also had indelible memories at my church and at my home.

The black churches in my hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., had special programs in honor of Black History Week. Men like Carl H. Russell, who was a city alderman and owner of Russell’s Funeral Home, were honored. Sitting and listening at church about the contributions of black people gave us a great deal of pride. It made us realize that black people did have a history, a proud and rich history.

Upon thinking about it now, black history was celebrated every day at my house. My mom and dad were constantly telling me about the men and women that came before me. I can remember my dad telling me about Michael Manley, who was a Jamaican Prime Minister. You see, my dad was Jamaican and my mom American. My mom was a history maker herself as she was in the first class of nursing graduates from Kate Biting Reynolds Hospital. This hospital served the black people in Winston-Salem. Black people kindly referred to it as “Katie B.”

So, since that time until now, we honor our timeless history with one month. In many circles, Black History Month has turned into a celebration of the Civil Rights Movement. We hear about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Ralph David Abernathy. I have had the privilege over my lifetime to meet Dr. King, Ambassador Young and Rev. Jackson.

Black History should be imbedded in America’s history. We should not have to dig for it or search for it. We should not have to wonder about its existence. It should be easily accessible and available. Textbooks, reference materials and media should all be a melting pot for our history.

Just as we know about Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, we should also know about husband and wife actors, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Just as we know about Michelle Obama, we should know about Barbara Jordan, the first woman and first African-American to be elected to Congress from the state of Texas.

Black History needs to be shared every day and not relegated to one month. Black people are achieving great things. Celebrate them and let people know.

This column is dedicated to Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson Sr., civil rights icon who always tells us to “Keep Hope Alive.”

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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