USA: Black History Month in full swing

Reading time 5 min.

The African-American community has been celebrating the Black History Month during the month of February since 1976. John E. Fleming is the President of the Association for the study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the association behind the organisation of this year’s event. He talks about the aims of this cultural event.

Black history month is in full swing in the United States of America. Since 1976, the month of February has been set aside in memory of African Americans who have left their mark on American history. This concept was born out of an older Negro History Week started by Carter G. Woodson half a century earlier. The association for the study of African American life and history (Asalh) is in charge of keeping the Black History Month – (a symbolic month paying due respect to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas for their campaign against slavery) – spirit alive. John E. Fleming is the national president of Asalh. He talks about the achievements and aims of the Black History Month and its theme this year “Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism”

Interview with John E. Fleming, National President of the Organisation Behind this year’s event. How would you sum up the achievements of the Black History Month?

John E. Fleming John When Carter G. Woodson first proposed the celebration of Negro History Week, only a few people were knowledgeable about African American History, In 2008, Our National President, George Bush, declares February Black History Month and it is celebrated throughout the nation. Do you think African-Americans are more proud of their heritage than before?

John E. Fleming Yes, as we come to understand the role that we played as an African people in the development of this nation. Africans, Europeans and American Indians came together to make a new nation. More than any other minority group, we were founders and we continue to impact the cultural, social, political and economic development of the nation. As we learn more about our African roots and study our African past, we appreciate the various African cultures giving rise to African Americans. Are you satisfied with the fact that Canada and the UK have their own Black History Month?

John E. Fleming Yes and no. It is wonderful that Black History is celebrated in these countries. As the Association for the Study of African American Life and History becomes stronger and a national force within this country, I expect that we will begin fulfilling our mission of serving a global audience that would include Canada and UK. We should begin thinking of ways to build partnerships on an international scale. Do you know if other countries plan to have their Black History Month?

John E. Fleming I hear that there are celebrations in other countries in Europe. What is the theme and the programme of this year’s Black History Month?

John E. Fleming The theme of this year’s BHM is Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism. The ASALH sponsors its annual BHM luncheon and participates in a program and reception at the White House when the President issues a proclamation declaring National Black History Month. Based on the national theme, thousands of organizations across the country have local and regional celebrations. Which African-American personality would you say has most contributed to giving a better image of African-Americans recently?

John E. Fleming I think unquestionably, it is Barack Obama. He is the right person at the right time. He is US Senator from a major state and urban area. He has the best education the country has to offer. He is more qualified than most other candidates running for office and has the most experience of the democratic candidates. His heritage continue to reflect the contributions Africans and Europeans have made to American History from the very beginning. Do white people take part in the Black History Month? Any white personalities?

John E. Fleming Oh, yes, very much so. White people in schools, colleges, churches, social organizations, and businesses in cities and towns across the country have programs to celebrate BHM. It is truly a national celebration Carter Woodson wanted the Negro History Week to disappear the day books would account for a certain level of participation from Black people in history. Is the goal achieved?

John E. Fleming No, we have not achieved that goal. We have much more research to do, many more books to write and more teachers to train so that they can transmit this knowledge to our young people of all colors. Do you envisage to stop the Black History Month should you consider that its role has been understood?

John E. Fleming It is possible in the future. I don’t think that it will happen in my lifetime. The Association will be 100 years old in 2015. Even when everyone understands the role Black people have played in this country, that is no reason why we should not continue to celebrate that role. Some Black people criticize Black History Month claiming that it separates the history of America and that of African-Americans?

John E. Fleming You can say that about any discipline, economic history, social history, etc. African American history is American history and you can not understand American history without studying Black History. The Association now produces BHM educational materials that teachers and others can use throughout the year and incorporate these materials into their regular curriculum.

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