The Immense Necessity of Black History Month

Black History Month is an opportunity to appreciate the immersive history of African-American people.


by Faith Andrews-O'Neal, Writer

Potato Chips. Gas Masks. Home security systems. Super Soaker water guns. What do all of these products have in common? All of these creations were invented and innovated by African-Americans throughout history. To be honest, before I began researching to write this, even I was not aware of all that black people have contributed to the technologies around us. The unfortunate fact is that a majority of people in this country have no idea. It is a well-known fact that black people have been through a lot throughout our history. However, we have also contributed a plethora of culture and inventions still used today. Black History Month is an appreciation of all we have given, and a time to acknowledge all that we have overcome.

Black people have had to overcome a ridiculous amount of obstacles in America and continue to do so. First, we were ripped from our homeland, and brought to this country, only to be treated only a little better than cattle. Then, on January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, making slavery illegal throughout the United States. There were public jubilees in the streets, an outpour of missionaries, both black and white, dedicated to aiding the next generation in their education, and overall, an abundant feeling of hope. However, that was soon dampened by the proceeding “Black Codes” in the South, prohibiting black people from serving on juries, testifying against white people and forcing black sharecroppers to enter contracts with white landowners, not to mention the brutal lynchings and terrorization from groups like the KKK.

Following that era was one of great change and great violence. The civil rights movement of the 20th century was the work of countless activists and allies, all fighting against a system known as “Jim Crow”. The laws in place enforced systemic racial segregation throughout the United States. Along the way, we lost incredible visionaries, like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Freedom Riders. People were willing to risk their lives, all for the sake of equality, and being given the dignities afforded to their peers of a different race.

Of course, all of this is disheartening to hear, but throughout this time of great oppression, innovators and creatives across history found ways to create a better life for themselves, or at least ease the pain with expression through art. Take Madam CJ Walker, born on a plantation and orphaned at the age of seven. She went on to become one of the first American women, black or white, to become a self-made millionaire with her line of hair products made for African-American women. Or take Garrett Morgan, who, with only an elementary school education, went on to create an improved design for the traffic signal, and invented a respiratory device that gave the blueprints for modern-day gas masks. Look at Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Ray Charles, whose music set the foundation for rock and roll, and had lasting impacts on American pop culture to this day. There are countless revolutionaries, visionaries and creatives who made this world what it is today. That’s the importance of Black History Month. It is through the acknowledgment of the greats of the past, that hope for the future is born.