The African Centered Education Movement has brought a new meaning to the annual African American History Month celebrations that have become so popular. Through the African Centered Education Movement, African American History Month has now become the catalyst for the intense study of Africa and the history of African people throughout the world 365 days a year.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who founded, in February of 1926, what at that time was called, “Negro History Week,” would indeed be inspired by the continuing discussion and debate over the infusion of the contributions of African people in all subjects. Dr. Woodson was deeply concerned that the contributions of African people to this society and the world were not given their proper recognition. Dr. Woodson’s great book, “The Miseducation of the Negro,” written in 1933, described in the fi rst chapter titled, “The Seat of the Trouble,” the essence of what the African Centered Curriculum Movement is battling against today 68 years later.
Dr. Woodson explained that “of the hundreds of Negro high schools recently examined (1933) by an expert in the United States Bureau of Education only eighteen offer a course taking up the history of the Negro, and in most of the Negro colleges and universities where the Negro is thought of, the race is studied only as a problem or dismissed as of little consequence.”
Continuing on, Dr. Woodson gave an example: “An officer of a Negro university, thinking that an additional course on the Negro should be given there, called upon a Negro Doctor of Philosophy on the faculty to offer such work. He promptly informed the officer that he knew nothing about the Negro. He did not go to school to waste his time that way. He went to be educated in a system which dismissed the Negro as a nonentity.”
Obviously, since the writing of this great book, we have come a long way in our battle against challenging the white supremacy foundation of the American public school curriculum. However, we still have a long way to go!
The Black Movement of the 1960s gave us an impetus to reexamine our history and its impact on this country and the world. This movement brought on renewed interest, on the part of our people, to study our history. We moved from the use of the term “Negro” in referring to ourselves and began to use “Black” as the more appropriate way to describe who we are. We went from Black History Week to Black History Month. In fact, some of us began to refer to the month of February as Black Liberation Month. It was through the movement of the 1960s, particularly the Black Power Phase, that we began to reidentify with our homeland, Africa and the interconnection of African people throughout the world.
The Black student movement of the 1960s sparked demands for courses in Black Studies that led to the famous strike at San Francisco State University. After a long battle with the administration at the university, the students fi nally won a victory for the fi rst Black Studies Program to be established at an American college or university. As a result, a movement for Black Studies erupted all over America and stimulated at the elementary and secondary levels demands from courses dealing with Black History. As we have come full circle today in our general acceptance of being an African people, whose ancestral homeland is Africa, we are also beginning to recognize that African American History Month celebrations and activities are great, but the contributions of African people must be emphasized throughout the year. There is no question that the setting aside of the month of February, as an extension of Dr. Woodson’s original idea of “Negro History Week,” is something that we need to continue to support and institutionalize vigorously.
However, we are quite clear that the real meaning of African American History Month, in this era, is to take the spirit from all the celebrations, great speeches, great entertainment, and festive events, to establish as a major agenda item in our movement, the serious study of the contributions of African people 365 days a year.
This is the basis of the current African Centered Education Movement, whose objective is to take control of the education of African people in America as we struggle to insure that the truth is taught in all the institutions in our communities and particularly in our schools.
We must take the spirit of African American History Month to another level. Our history must be studied throughout the year!
[Dr. Conrad Worrill is the National Chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF) located at 12817 South Ashland Avenue, Flr. 1, Calumet Park, Illinois, 60827, 708-389- 9929, Fax #708-389-9819, E-mail:email@example.com, Web page: nbufront.org]