During the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month. Perhaps you’re wondering why this is so important. Why do we need to dedicate a whole month to black history?
Here are four reasons Black History Month matters.
1. Black History Month matters because of the Imago Dei.
Black History Month matters, first, because of the doctrine of the Imago Dei — black lives were created in the image of God. Every highlighted gift, creative production and human narrative that we celebrate during Black History Month stems from the reality of our creation (Genesis 1:27).
As the church, if we believe the doctrine of the Imago Dei is a vital doctrine, then we must celebrate and talk about Black History Month. The narrative of black lives is one that many times gets told from one predominant perspective. It is important to note the pains, setbacks and especially the successes and victories of African Americans. Black History Month offers us an opportunity to recognize the impact that African Americans have had on our country and the world. When we acknowledge these things, we as the church also acknowledge the multifaceted power of God in the lives of His creation — since he was the one who fashioned these gifted men and women in his image.
2. Black History Month matters because it brings black Americans’ contributions to the forefront.
Why do we need a Black History Month? Isn’t black history American history? Truthfully, much of African American history has been told in the margins, and much of our history has been a fight for the validity of our history. Though I agree that black history is American history, our history can be swept under the rug or placed in the shadows of the predominant culture’s history.
Oftentimes even in celebrating black history, the predominant culture praises the perceived courage and heroism of, for example, an abolitionist during the dark days of black history is praised at the expense of black Americans’ triumphant perseverance through said terrible hardship. For example, some people celebrate black history by highlighting how Abraham Lincoln passed the 13th Amendment for our freedom. This is true, but it still places the spotlight on him.
So we need movies (like “Hidden Figures”) that educate Americans on elements of black history that you won’t find in the average history book. We need to keep telling these stories, and bring black Americans’ contributions to the forefront.
3. Black History Month matters because it allows us to tell the story of black perseverance.
When the topic of black history comes up, the first thought that may come to mind is the tragedy of slavery, and understandably so. We need to remember the wickedness of slavery and its ripple effects — such as Jim Crow, red lining (denying services to people because of their skin color) and poverty.
Though we should acknowledge these realities, black history should not boil down to black oppression. Within and outside the narrative of slavery is a story of victory, triumph, strength, creation and production.
Black history is not a story of black oppression, but of black perseverance.
We often praise the resilience of America’s story and champion the pursuit of the American. Black history shows that America’s story and the American dream are impossible without the stories of black lives. Many times, the culture of the majority can make one overlook the contributions of minority men and women.
So during Black History Month, we can tell the stories of world changing inventions that were created by African Americans such as George Washington Carver, Lewis Latimer, Garrett Morgan or Elijah McCoy. We remember that the everyday things that we enjoy are not only products of white people, but are products of African Americans’ hard work and giftedness as well.
Black history shows us that black history isn’t just for black people, but for all people — because all people experience the fruit of the hard work of African Americans. In this we should be grateful.
4. Black History Month matters because we can learn from black leaders.
We need to know and honor the leaders of our country — including the sacrifices and achievements of black leaders throughout American history. Black history month affords us an opportunity to highlight the sacrifices and courage of the African American leaders who fought for justice and progress. It also affords us an opportunity to remember the importance of black leaders to Christianity, as well.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglas showed us the way of love, the way of resilience, the way of justice and the way of eloquence. Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks modeled the boldness, courage and resilience that should inspire every person who studies their life. The history of black leadership and specifically historic Christian black leadership highlights for us some of the Gospel attributes that we learn in scripture and should strive to imitate. So not only should we acknowledge leaders in black history, but we should also learn from their example.
Black history month is a month where we get the opportunity to celebrate an aspect of God’s glory. Black history month matters because God created this aspect of history not only for the good of the black community, but for the good of the global community who is made in the image of God.