It’s February. Black History Month. While many of us wonder why only one month out of the year (and the shortest one at that) is designated for paying national attention to African-American contributions to American history, let us put our cynicism aside, and embrace the many opportunities available this month to help our children learn about our history.
Our children are growing up in an era where our President is African-American and in many instances African-American culture is the dominant culture (e.g., hip hop). This “Tanning of America”, as supreme marketer Steve Stoute calls it, can lead some children to believe that it is no longer important to focus on race or understand our unique history in the United States. It is up to us as parents to disabuse them of this notion. We need them to understand that knowing the triumphs and the tragedies of our history and understanding the critical role that Black people played in the shaping of America is important, inspirational and essential. They may hear more about Black History in school in February, but they should hear about it from us all year round.
One offering this month that you and your high school sons (and daughters) should not miss is “Slavery By Any Other Name”, a documentary airing on PBS on February 13th at 9pm. This film, directed by Sam Pollard (Eyes on the Prize) and based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas A. Blackmon, challenges the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. It tells how decades after 1865, thousands of African-Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality. This was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Narrated by Laurence Fishburne, the film features interviews with historians and descendants of both the enslaved and those doing the imprisoning.
“Slavery By Any Other Name” received a rousing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival, and has been shown in screenings in several cities across the country to similar acclaim. Be sure to watch it when it airs on February 13th!!!