Remember those who came before: Black history month

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David O. McKay Library Black History Month display Photo credit: Katia Brown

February is a popular month known for holidays and celebrations such as Valentine’s Day, The Super Bowl and Groundhog Day; it is also a month dedicated to the celebration of Black history, voices and accomplishments.

The patriotic month-long memorial began with one man: Carter G. Woodson. In 1926, he began the observation as a week-long tradition and titled the week Negro History Week.

A firm advocate for education, Woodson began the celebration to ensure that schoolchildren in America could recognize and understand the contributions of Black individuals in the history of the United States.

February provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate, due to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the U.S. and issuer of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Fredrick Douglass, national leader of the abolitionist movement.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the U.S., extended the memorial to span the entire month of February.

In 1915, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The organization shoulders the role of recording, teaching, researching and preserving Black history.

“Black Resistance: Building Bridges and Navigating Barriers” is the Black History Month theme for 2023. On the ASALH website, a complete list of creeds can be found dating all the way back to 1928.

According to ASALH, “Black History Month is not a token. It is a special tribute ā€” a time of acknowledgement, of reflection, and inspiration ā€” that comes to life in real and ongoing activities throughout the year.”

Many BYU-Idaho students choose to celebrate the month by remembering great Black men and women who have passed on, while other students celebrate by sharing their accomplishments.

Juliette Kimberly, a recent BYU-I alumna, showed her appreciation for the month of remembrance by posting on Facebook: “To kickstart black history month I thought Iā€™d share my Main Character moment as I graduated with my bachelors degree last fall. … Proud of myself and proud to be yet another example of black excellence.”

John McSwain, a senior studying communication, appreciated the opportunity to remember African Americans who dedicated their lives to accomplish great things. A few heroes include Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Barack Obama.

“As an African American community, I think that it’s very powerful to know that we are able to do anything and everything to live the American dream,” McSwain said. “Live the dream that Dr. King was talking about.”

On the first floor of the David O. McKay Library, a tribute collage stands as a memorial for the month. Posters of 20 books honoring the lives of Black men and women are displayed on a board across from the library’s computer lab. The Library has also developed a list on its website of countless other like-themed recommendations.