Black, white and shades of gray

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

The beginnings of February’s Black History Month can be traced to 1926, but even with its good intentions, it is not exempt from controversey.

“You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” actor Morgan Freeman asked in an interview with “60 Minutes” in December.

Freeman’s comments struck a chord in many people, both black and white.

Brookings resident Dorothy Butler respects Freeman as an actor, but doesn’t agree with his opinions on black history.

“I love Morgan Freeman,” said Butler. “He has a good idea. He does say that black history is American histroy, but what I know is that history is written by the dominant culture and they’re not going to write his history and mine at the same level. That’s just too much to expect.”

She argues that the month offers an opprotunity to promote Morgan’s own point: that black history is American history.

Rozhyer Aware, coordinator for multicultural programs in the multicultural affairs office, sees both sides of the argument as well.

She believes ethnicities and their histories should be celebrated every day of the month.

However, she also thinks Black History Month provides a good chance to educate people.

“The month is here and it’s a great oopportunity to really get out there and educate the community,” said Aware.

The origins of the month are important when trying to understand it’s purpose, said Aware.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, whose parents of slavery, went to school and earned a Ph.D.

“When he was studying, when he got his Ph.D, he realized that a lot of history books and so forth ignored African-American leaders who made such an impact in the African-American community,” said Aware.

In 1926, Woodson designated the third week of February as Negro History Week. Woodson chose that particular week because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass fell during that week.

With the changes in terminology and the historical events that have occurred in February since 1926, the month was renamed Black History Month in the 1960s.

“February is a huge month for African Americans when you look at their history and so forth,” said Aware.

But is the goal of educating people about black history actually being acheived?

Sophomore Kristina Stulken first learned about Black History Month in high school.

“I think the month is a good idea probably because…it’s hard to celebrate something you don’t know about,” said Stulken.

Sophomore Gak Gak, a native of Sudan, discovered Black History Month briefly in high school.

After moving to the U.S. a little over five years ago, he has been slowly introduced to the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although he’s not completely familiar with King, Gak admires his goal.

“I’m glad people were hearing what he was talking about,” said Gak.

#1.884701:2347028418.jpg:blackhistory02_aa.jpg:Brookings residents Dorothy and Eugene T. Butler are thankful for Black History Month. They believe it is an opportunity to educate others.:Amber Armstrong