“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Carter G. Woodson
In 1926, Black historian Carter Woodson sent out a press release marking the first Black History Week in the United States. Fifty years later, the commemoration was officially recognized when President Gerald Ford encouraged citizens to use the month of February to learn about and celebrate the long-neglected accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans.
Woodson originally chose February for the event because Frederick Douglass, who had escaped slavery and became a key abolitionist and social reformer, and Abraham Lincoln, who had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, were both born in February.
At the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Race Relations (ORR), we’re celebrating 50 years of working to dismantle racism by Christian Reformed churches and the denomination. Recognizing that the CRC is still a predominantly Euro-ethnic denomination, the ORR staff thought getting the insights of white people engaged in anti-racism work might provide unique views on the importance of Black History Month.
Rev. Al Mulder is the author of the book "Learning to Count to One: The Joy and Pain of Becoming a Multiracial Church." He shared his personal reflections on the importance of Black History Month in a recent interview:
"Why dedicate a month to recognizing Black history? Why not dedicate a month to Asian history and Latino history and Native American history, and so forth?
In part, our answer could be, 'Why not?'
Everyone’s story is important! And to the extent that the stories of people groups have been un-told or under-told or even mis-told in our textbooks, which is especially true of African American history, it seems right and good to lift up these stories, telling the truth and the whole truth.
As a member of a multiracial church, one of the most important things for us as white people to learn is that our reality is not everybody’s reality. To give one example, at an 'open mic’ meeting Black parents told about “the talk” with teenage sons about how to act and not act when stopped by police; their lives could depend on it. A white friend of mine with grown sons confessed he had never felt the need to do that. We can better understand our own white privilege through the often contrasting realities of Black brothers and sisters in Christ.
Getting better acquainted with African American brothers and sisters also helps us as white persons to grow in our relationship to Christ. As Christians, Christ is in us (Col. 3:3); his life and love are expressed through each of us. Yet, how Christ’s life and love flows through us is unique to who we are: family influences, ethnic origins, racial backgrounds, and more. To that extent, the more I can learn from others about the love and life of Christ in them, the more fully I can experience the life and love of Christ in me.
How do you think a focus on Black history can bless the unified body of Christ? We would love to hear your thoughts and stories about Black History Month. Send your comments to [email protected]