Voting our Voice


Haidyn Fritz, Writer

Civilization must know where it came from if it has any hope of knowing where it’s going.

As most know, February is annual Black History Month. However, it’s important to understand how Black History Month derived—all POC (people of color) and people not of color alike—and to realize the important part of Black History Month is learning the cultivation of African-American Culture. In other words: the history of Black history.

Since 1976, each President has designated a specific political theme for every Black History Month. The theme for 2020 is “African Americans and the Vote.”  This is to honor the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), granting the right for women to vote, combined with the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment, granting black men the right to vote (1870).

The theme “The Vote” simply unites these two ideas for the month of February and transitions into March (Women’s History Month). Of course, the passed Amendments can still be seen today, as they have greatly impacted American culture in giving a greater voice to those whose opinions had not been previously recognized.

This week, Elkhart Central students shared their own knowledge about modern Black History Month. All were aware of the dedicated month; however, most didn’t know the month had a specific theme for the year. “There’s a theme?” says sophomore Cadence Snider. There was a common consensus that Black History Month was a good thing; however, very few people say they actually take the month to learn about Black history. As stated by an anonymous student, “Personally, I just think that schools should handle all the teaching, and we should just learn about it. It’s not specifically our job to go and find the info.”

It may be interesting to discover, though, that Black History Month didn’t start out as a month; rather, it was simply a week. In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson worked with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to create a nationwide event, where the history of African-Americans’ struggle to survive in early America could be studied. Woodson states that “African-American contributions were overlooked, ignored, and suppressed by history textbook writers…,” which is obviously an understatement.

Eventually, he was able to officially don the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” The second week was chosen specifically because it coincided with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.

However, segregation was still very much alive. POC and Caucasians were still separated openly in public. Even things as little as sitting at a specific space on a bus was enough to make basically a whole city riot (circa. Rosa Parks 1955). Segregation wouldn’t be abolished until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act came into play.

Black History “Month” was expanded to a full month in 1970, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) abolished slavery (which is different from segregation). In September of the same year, Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which was dedicated to studying the research and achievements of Black Americans and those of African history.

Of course, there is so much more to Black History Month—and Black history in general. Moreover, Black history is a topic that should definitely be talked about more openly. If it’s something of personal interest, research it. Beyond the learning that has provided throughout school (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, etc.), find some interesting symbols of Black history and write a colorful research paper about!