You are currently viewing Why Black History Matters

Why Black History Matters

My 10-year old son and I are active members in our church; he serves by lighting the candles on the altar and I help to lead the children’s ministry. Because this congregation is historically Black, our culture and heritage are naturally woven into the fabric of our worship service. However, in February there is traditionally a Black history program and soul food celebration on the last Sunday of the month.

During the planning phase, the youth are asked to consider a historical figure they would like to share and celebrate with the congregation. My son suggested Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to which I objected. Although he is a pillar of the Civil Rights movement, I prodded, “Can you think of anyone else?” 

Our exchange got me thinking about the complexity of what it means to be black in America. There is such a richness and depth to who we are as African American people, yet our stories are marginalized. Our history is being revised.

As one 2023 EdWeek article explains, “In U.S. schools, Black history is often flattened to focus primarily on enslavement, the civil rights movement, and, more recently, the election of President Barack Obama. Elementary schools tend to elevate the lives of well-known individual Black historical giants…while ignoring myriad other Black people—lesser known, unsung heroes—who have worked for racial justice.”

I pleaded, “Can you think of anyone else?” I was quizzing his cumulative knowledge of the books we’ve read, the museums we’ve visited, the community presentations we’ve witnessed, and the documentaries I’ve called him to watch, all in an effort to learn about our history.

After some discussion about notable blacks in the field of aeronautics, such as Leland Melvin and Brigadier General Charles E. McGee, my son decided upon another figure who enjoys defying gravity and chasing speed: Wendell Scott, the first full-time black driver to win a NASCAR premier race in 1963! He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame posthumously in 2014, nearly 25 years after his death in 1990. Learn more by checking out this picture book about the life and times of Wendell Scott: Racing Against the Odds. Indeed, black history matters.

Photo: courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/ CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images.

Leave a Reply