John H. McWhorter: Do We Really Need Black History Month?





[John H. McWhorter is a City Journal contributing editor.]

To feel that something is tired in the idea of Black History Month isn’t, despite what one might hear from some quarters, racist. When Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926, he hoped that the need for such a celebration would gradually recede. For the week to morph into a month did not exactly bear out his wishes, and today, even black people brandish an array of objections to Black History Month. Actor Morgan Freeman wonders why the history of his people must be relegated to a single month. Others more recreationally inclined consider it suspicious that February is the shortest month. Is it perhaps time to let Black History Month go?...

And we also live in an era when history textbooks are dedicated to chronicling slavery to such an extent that critics decry the decrease in space devoted to other aspects of history, and when university leaders consider it more important that an undergraduate know what institutional racism is than what the Munich Agreement was. All of this is why a month dedicated to black history now feels like a month dedicated to seat belts. Both are now part of the fabric of American life, with black history almost as insistent on any wakeful person’s attention as the pinging sound in a car when you don’t buckle up....


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