USS Peleliu (LHA 5)
Decommissioned March 31, 2015
The History Behind Black History Month
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Valerie M. Grayson
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – History exists for all religions, wars, and different races and ethnicities. So, when people say the month of February focuses on black history, what exactly does black history mean? What is the history behind black history?
Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History” said, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Woodson was the son of ex-slaves born in New Canton, Va. At the age of 20, he earned his high school diploma. He then received a Bachelor of Literature in Kentucky, followed by a short time working as a school supervisor in the Republic of the Philippines. The scholar returned to attend the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He went on to Harvard University in 1912 becoming the second African American to earn a doctorate degree. The first was William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois.
Prior to the early 1900s, black history was “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers,” observed Woodson. Woodson focused his research to bridge this gap. He also founded his own publishing company, Associated Publishers, to write and produce books to help tell African-American history. One of his most successful books was published in 1933, “The Miseducation of the Negro”.
In 1915, Woodson, with Rev. Jesse E. Moorland and others, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, later changed to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). He also created Negro History Week on the second week of February in 1926.
While this week was chosen due to the proximity of the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both pioneers on the emancipation and equality of African Americans, Woodson also used existing traditions to “expand the study of Black history.” As early as the 1940s, the week grew into a month-long focus. After Woodson’s death, April 3, 1950, the ASALH continued to establish the month of February as Black History Month, with recognition nationally in 1976.
“Black history is important. I grew up in the era of segregation in schools and civil rights movements,” said Cmdr. Aaron Washington, Peleliu’s chief engineer and the highest ranking Navy officer in his family. “It’s important to educate our younger generation about black history and where we came from.”
Black History Month honors and remembers past and present African-American legends every year. African-American pioneers paved the way for their future and for the future of all that will come after them. These pioneers include agriculturist and 1941 TIME magazine’s “Black Leonardo” George Washington Carver, boxing hall of famer Muhammad Ali, Tuskegee airman Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., first African-American Oscar winner for “Lilies in the Field” (1963) Sidney Poitier and the President of the United States Barack Obama.
“President Obama, being [African-American], is my biggest inspiration,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Pearl Amoako, from Ghana and first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. “He makes me want to achieve more than I ever have.”
Peleliu’s Diversity Team will celebrate this month with an entertainment ensemble with choir, dance and traditional background readings.
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, and with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
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