Black History Month, originally inspired by Carter Godwin Woodson, represents the pre-existing generalization that accuses African Americans of being incapable of economic productivity and intellectual advantages due to the complexion of their skin. 

The establishment of Black History Month, formerly known as “Negro History Week” in 1926, occurred amongst the climax of racial violence, hatred and dehumanization that stemmed from white people’s constant desire for preponderant authority over every aspect of governmental and societal functions. This served as evidence of African Americans’ devotion and contribution to America. However, Caucasian individuals did not understand that the construction of the United States through forced servitude was only possible due to the blood, sweat and tears of African Americans, a group of people whites continue to believe are absent of value or skill performance. 

Carter Godwin Woodson figured Negro History Week would eliminate the stereotype of uselessness associated with darker skin color and unravel a new sense of equality between races, yet it didn’t. The week only showcased the beginning of Black peoples’ conquest for acceptance in a country they built and nurtured with their own hands and bosoms. No matter the quantity of great achievements obtained by African Americans, whites ignored their talents and deemed them mediocre to add to their own value.

Despite the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that liberated millions of Black slaves and provided each individual with citizenship, white elitists continued to utilize other techniques to ensure holistic progression was not accomplished by the African-American people. 

Minorities fought in battle during World War I from 1914-1918 to protect and defend their country and “democracy” from German destruction, yet their efforts were unobtrusive, retracting the passion and emotion internally present in each Black soldier fighting during war. Freed men returned home, receiving no gratitude or congratulations, but only newly executed laws to degrade and burden their lives. 

During the 1920s, there were riots, lynchings and intimidation tactics introduced by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, curtailing the rights practiced by minorities. 

Also, post-Civil War segregation and Black Codes administered by the government to separate the supposed inferior beings from the alleged superior beings were still in full effect. The promises by Lincoln and the documentation of Blacks’ humanity in the constitution did not eradicate the opportunity of the system being manipulated by racist leaders due to power avidity. 

More relevantly, Negro History Week did not abolish the ideology of African Americans being a nuisance to society. The event increased the reality that Black people were never being accepted even if the evidence of contribution was substantial and obvious. 

So, why does Black History Month matter? Being an African American woman myself, I am aware of our exceptional potential and our robust library of literature, art, music, etc. Moreover, a reminder of our poetic spirits and affluent culture is inessential because I acknowledge its existence and its overwhelming value to the well-being of this selfish nation on a daily basis. 

Black History Month taunts African Americans with the sad truth of never being included in a country whose foundation is designed to exclude them — whilst we, African Americans, retweet and repost all of the accomplishments, challenges and honorable acts of numerous Black prominent figures throughout history. 

Black History Month does not and will never matter because it does not change the hearts and minds of millions of people. 

We should not have to prove our value when it should already be understood. 

Kamyia Rivers is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism. She can be reached at kamdrive@vols.utk.edu.

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