Greetings E.I. Empowerment Community and Website Visitors! I want to take some time to emphasize the importance of celebrating the achievements and contributions that black people have made in America.
I. What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions by Black Americans and a time to recognize their central role in the history of the United States. The concept, developed by historian Carter G. Woodson, started as “Negro History Week” and eventually grew into a month-long celebration in the month of February. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
II. Why was February Chosen?
Originally, the second week in February was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
III. When did it Become Black History Month?
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in America in 1976, calling upon the general public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
IV. Should Black History only be Celebrated in February?
The quick answer is No. Black history should be celebrated throughout the year. There is a wealth of knowledge to learn and share regarding black history in America. I challenge you to research and recognize the contributions that black people have made to politics, science, engineering, and of course, economics.
V. Black Contributions to the U.S Economy
For centuries, Black people have contributed significantly to the progress and growth of the U.S. Economy. Here is just one example of a significant economic contribution to America from the black community.
Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 – There was a thriving black community known as the Greenwood District, with a population of 10,000 at the time, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This community thrived as the epicenter of African American business and culture, particularly on bustling Greenwood Avenue, commonly known as Black Wall Street. On Greenwood Avenue, there were luxury shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, clothing stories, movie theaters, barbershops and salons, a library, pool halls, bars and nightclubs and offices for doctors, lawyers, engineers, and dentists. Greenwood also had its own school system, post office, a savings and loan bank, hospital, and bus and taxi service. This small township in Oklahoma was an economic jewel comprised of hard work and talent that subsequently poured hundreds of dollars into the American infrastructure and economy during the early 1900s.
VI. The Unthinkable Happened
Things were going quite well for a small black community in the Greenwood District of Tulsa Oklahoma, but unfortunately, this financial and economic success would be short-lived. On May 13, 1921, the Tulsa’s Black district of Greenwood was attacked by a white mob, resulting in two days of bloodshed and destruction. The massacre left hundreds of black residents dead and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed within a matter of days.
With millions of dollars in property damage and no help from the city or state, the rebuilding of Greenwood began almost immediately, thanks to the assistance of the NAACP, other Black townships in Oklahoma, donations from Black churches and a resilient Greenwood community. However, some businesses were permanently closed in the wake of the violence.
The Greenwood District still exists today but after decades of urban renewal and integration the area’s demographics and businesses resemble little of its storied past.
Please celebrate and recognize Black History Month. Enjoy expanding your history horizons!
Jeremy G. Preston, Founder & CEO