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Black History Means…

We asked Library staff what Black History means to them. Here’s what they had to say:

Black History is every day, every month, and every year. Black History is then, and now, and forever. It is the belief in liberation for us all, in freedom from oppression and marginalization to be your truest self. Black History is resistance and revolution, jubilee and joy, grief and grace. It is queer and trans and disabled and across the diaspora. To me, Black History is not only my history, but our collective history. Black history is the way we get free.

-Raivynn

Black History Month is a time set aside to honor those who came before me on a national level. It is a time to share the accomplishments of African Americans, particularly those who are less well known, with those who come to the library. While I grew up in a Northern town and was part of the first integrated generation, I was raised to take pride in my heritage. Observing Black History Month is a way I can show and teach that heritage to younger generations.

-Laurel

Black History is a significant aspect of world history that highlights the experiences, achievements, and contributions of people of African descent. It is a crucial element in understanding the diverse and rich cultural heritage that has shaped the world as we know it today. Black History is an essential component of world history because it provides a comprehensive understanding of the various cultures, traditions, and contributions of people of African descent. It is a reminder that the African diaspora has played a significant role in shaping the world’s history and culture despite facing numerous challenges and hardships.

In addition to this, understanding Black History allows us to appreciate the various ways in which African cultures have influenced and intermingled with other cultures around the world. This understanding helps foster a greater appreciation for diversity and promotes mutual respect and understanding among different cultures. Black History is a testament to the incredible achievements of Black individuals throughout history. These accomplishments, in various fields such as science, art, literature, sports, and politics, have left a lasting impact on the world.

By celebrating Black History, we can recognize the significant contributions of Black individuals and inspire future generations to continue striving for excellence. It is essential to acknowledge the accomplishments of Black people to dismantle stereotypes and prejudices that still exist today.

-Jalen

To celebrate Black History is to recognize the contributions of people of African descent who helped build and shape America. It is extremely important to me that we recognize and continue to celebrate the holiday because there are still efforts to diminish our stories. Black History Month gives me deep pride and sincere hope for the future.

-Stephanie F.

Black History Month means learning about my hometown through the experiences of my neighbors, literal and figurative, past and present. It means respecting and appreciating those who built and continue to make the City and County of Durham great.

-Megan

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans of the past and present. An appreciation of Black History gives you hope and courage while laying the foundation to inspire future generations of all races to have the opportunity to accomplish great things in life.

-Tonja

Black History Month means learning and hearing about all the contributions of Black people who make America great. The saddest part is that beyond slavery, Black History has often been overlooked in public schools. I am grateful to my mom and dad for being my first teachers of Black History. I am thankful for my HBCUs (Shaw University and Fayetteville State University) for the part they played in Black History. Most importantly, I appreciate those HBCUs for the overflow of knowledge of Black History they taught me. I deeply appreciate the enlightenment of knowing that I AM BLACK HISTORY!

-Tricia

To me, Black History Month means discovery. Over the years, I have been motivated to learn about Black authors, inventors, innovators, and civil rights activists who do not often feature in history books or classroom discussions. This year, I compiled a calendar for Black History Month that lists and describes Black inventors and innovators for each day in February for the teens and other library patrons. In creating this calendar, I found out how much our country has gained from less well-known Black Americans. Black History Month is a time to acknowledge and be grateful for the contributions of those who gave in spite of discrimination and lack of appreciation. It’s time to honor those figures and give thanks.

-Archie

An important part of what Black History means to me is how Black people in the United States of America sing and play music. Our music changed the world and how music sounds today. There would never have been a British Invasion with bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others without Black people’s music. That is Black History.

-Michael

For me, Black History represents both the foundation of and the continuation of our progress for civil rights.

-Claudia

Black History Month for me means learning about the United States. It gives me a chance to see what my role could be to make a better world for everyone.

-Hitoko

When I think of what Black History means to me, several words come to mind. Awareness, understanding, sadness, struggle, gratitude, and pride are just a few. Having the opportunity to study and know about Black History provides me with an awareness of where my ancestors have come from and understanding where we are today. I think it’s wonderful to learn all the contributions Black Americans have made to improve the way we live and function every day. When I consider the constant struggles and dehumanizing situations that my ancestors endured, the very narrow window of progress I look through today gives me feelings of both sadness and gratitude. I feel sadness because after over a century since slavery was supposed to have ended, many Black Americans are still being dehumanized, killed, and treated as unvaluable property. My gratitude comes from the fact that through it all we remain, we keep moving forward, and we refuse to let the negative narrative of the past repeat itself. It’s an honor to learn about the contributions made by Black Americans of the past, and it gives me great pride to know about my own family of great Black historians. My grandparents were Black business owners right here in Durham and served their community for almost two decades. This information was passed down to me and my siblings from my parents, and we have given this information to our children. Local participation is a part of Black History also. It is the responsibility of each generation to pass on these historical details to those who come after them. That way, Black History continues to make us proud, grant us awareness, and guides us to an even better future.

-Stephanie J.

Black history means knowing about great Black Americans like doctors, scientists, writers, and musicians. Black people stood for peace and love for everyone.

-Darlene

Growing up in Greensboro, NC, during the 1950s and ‘60s, I didn’t know that there was a special week devoted to remembering and celebrating accomplishments of African Americans. The nightly news, however, was a lens showing rage against people whose skin was dark. I cried seeing people sprayed with fire hydrants and terrorized by dogs. Who did the threatening and spitting upon a young girl on her way to a public school further down South? She was polite and dressed just like I!

Back then, if the tables were turned, we white folk would fail in the “treat those as we would like to be treated” department. In the 1970s I was totally unaware that President Gerald Ford (the guy who took over after the Nixon fiasco) declared all of February to be Black History Month. There was so much going on then, including my own travels toward adulthood.

We are all products of time and space, a loving or unloving family or support group, and of varying degrees of opportunity. My long-term history is not one of repression nor racism; I acknowledge the privilege I have simply because I’m white. There is no real justification for that, and Black History sets out to prove it.

In all aspects of American society, Black people deserve elevated recognition by all. We would not be the United States of America without the contributions of Black Americans, which is exactly why I’m so grateful for Black History Month.

-Olivia

Black History in 2024 has greater significance for me as we are experiencing the eradication of Black stories in school textbooks across the nation. As a lover of all things history and culture, I’m saddened to witness the erasure of facts due to personal opinions. Understanding history is crucial for comprehending family dynamics, societal issues, and the evolution of our world. It’s also a steppingstone to the solutions. Black History is American history.

As a Black woman, preserving this history is so important to me and the future generations that will follow me. When our stories aren’t told, we will slowly fade away. My mother’s firsthand accounts of growing up in South Carolina with ‘white-only’ water fountains are always a reminder of our resilience and how we continue to make history every day.

No matter what is done, Black History will always live. Let us all join together to preserve the history of Black Americans:

  1. Interview the elders in your family and community to capture their memories.
  2. Explore reputable books and resources to educate yourself.
  3. Pay it forward by discussing Black History with others and finding ways to make a difference.

Let’s keep our Black History alive and thriving.

-Jacinta

“What we are calling Black History is the missing segment of world history!”

-Carter

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