February is Black History Month, a period of time dedicated to overcoming the long practice of accentuating white history and de-accentuating the history of oppression of black people in America. For instance, were you taught in school about the existence of “Sundown Towns” across the United States that posted signs warning African-Americans to make sure they were out of town by nightfall… or else? Probably not. That’s why we have a need for a Black History Month.
There are some people who don’t support the idea of a Black History Month. In a nationally representative poll conducted on February 7 and 8 of this year, registered voters were asked, “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Black History Month?” Now overall, registered voters indicated a fairly favorable opinion of Black History Month: 64% favor it. But among those who voted for Donald Trump in November 2016, only a minority — 45% — support Black History Month.
There is a consequence to a lack of support for a history of black people in America; you’ll tend to be ignorant about it. That’s just what the above-mentioned poll finds, too. Among all registered voters in the poll, 65% are aware that renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass is a historical figure, long dead. Only 34% of Trump voters in the poll view Frederick Douglass favorably, and only 47% of Trump voters report a knowledge that he’s dead. Most Trump voters are mired in an ignorance which allows them to know nothing and therefore to do nothing that is based on a realistic understanding of the facts surrounding the history of black people in America. A majority of those same Trump voters actively choose to remain ignorant, pushing Black History Month away so they won’t ever have to think about Frederick Douglass, or Sojourner Truth, or Harriet Tubman, or the White History that includes slavery-defending Jefferson Davis and slaveholders like Joshua John Ward of South Carolina, who owned more than 1100 people as if they were pieces of furniture.
If you’d like to catch up on some learning for Black History Month, try visiting the New York Times, which is publishing one previously unreleased photograph a day and describing in detail that photograph’s connection to the history of black people in America. A little knowledge is a powerful thing.