Black History Month is a time of celebration and reverence for the courageous acts of black people throughout the history of our nation 

Black history is American history.

Whether some people admit it or not, black history is embedded within our culture. It seeps through the soil of American democracy and roots itself inside the heart of every citizen. 

Black History Month is the time of year when we focus our lenses on how African-Americans have not only been a part of our culture, but significantly changed it for the better.

From the life of the unknown slave, to the martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., today’s Americans are forever indebted to the black people who helped build this nation. 

I personally believe that Black History Month is a time of both lament and celebration, mourning and dancing, sorrow as well as great joy.

There are plenty of holidays and seasons throughout the year that cause us to gather with our families and turn on the barbecue pit, but Black History Month should lead us to stop, reflect and change. Throughout the course of our busy lives, we rarely take a moment to pause. I encourage us to do so throughout this month in honor of the freedom fighters who came before us.

I personally resolve to do so myself as a Hispanic man whose family labored in the grape and cotton fields for many years. My own relatives are very much indebted to the arduous efforts led by black folks. 

As a person of color, I understand that my perspective of America would be very different if it had not been for those who came before me to fight on my behalf. 

Let us reflect upon the work of black Americans. 

In the words of President Gerald Ford, we must “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

We must remember and honor the promotion of black business by Booker T. Washington, the martyrdom of Emmet Till, and the resistance of Rosa Parks. These individuals not only lived to promote the freedom of black Americans, but all Americans. 

LeGarett J. King is an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is a researcher who advocates for maintaining observance of this great month and is largely concerned with the education of American children regarding African enslavement. 

One of the more alarming assertions I have read from King’s research dealt with a textbook used in Texas public schools that boiled the horror of the Middle Passage down to the immigration of “millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

This is where change is required. 

I argue that Black History Month is important because it allows us to reflect on the past and it provides us an opportunity to alter our present reality.

We must strive for equal representation in the workplace, the preservation of our history within our school system, and the fair treatment of all citizens. 

Racist acts, although thankfully less frequent in the 21st century than any previous century, are still common in the U.S.

We must continue to recognize our implicit biases against those of dark pigmentation, as well as light pigmentation. 

I believe that all people are equal in the eyes of God, and there is no distinction that causes one group of people to be superior over any other.

The point of labeling February as Black History Month is not to make black history seem like a completely different entity from U.S. history. Instead, I see it as the recognition and veneration of a strong and formidable group of people within this ethnically diverse nation. It is a time for every member of this country to thank those who have fought for the freedom of not only black people, but all people. 

In the words of Cornel West, we are to “accept [our] country without betraying it, [we] must love it for that which shows what it might become. America — this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of ‘no’ into the ‘yes’ — needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and re-make it.” 

Let us see our nation for all that it could be, and may we never lose sight of its great history.