good sunday morning. i'm pat lawson muse. welcome to "viewpoint." it was established nearly a century ago and it's been officially celebrated for 40 years, but every year the debate persists about black history month. while african-american history in this country is rich and irrefutable, the month set aside to recognize it is still discussed and debated among black and white americans. our guests this morning are dr. karsonya whitehead, a member of the association for the study of african-american life and history, and she is associate professor of communication and african and african-american studies at loyola university. sylvia cyrus is executive director of the association, which is also called
in washington, d.c., and edwin henderson is founder and president of the tenner hill heritage foundation. welcome all of you. >> thank you. >> so, why nearly a century after carter g. woodson, the african-american historian established it, are we still debating whether or not we still need black history month? >> well, i think because america really has not fully embraced the contributions of african-americans. it's the reason why we have to still have this celebration dr. woodson started in 1926. we are still making history. so we're still worthy of study, we're still worthy of research and dissemination about our contributions. and it's still very important for us. >> dr. whitehead, do you agree with that, and do you think anyone cares about black history other than black people? >> well, that's a big issue. i think it's important that we still celebrate black history month. when i travel around the country, if we didn't talk about black history during black
mandated, people would not discuss it at all. i've been in parts of the country they don't want to talk about black history at all and it's wonderful because during the month it comes from everywhere. it's in the newspapers, on commercials, it's forcing people to wrestle with the issue of who contributed to the making of this country. we have to recognize african-americans are important in this nation. >> mr. henderson? >> not only is it needed, but it's necessary, because without the majority population understanding the contributions of african-americans, then that's when we have problems that arise like we see recently with the shooting of unarmed black men and the need for a black lives matter movement. so, we have to push it out there, and, yes, it is needed for the general population as much as the african-american population. >> recently it's been debated among african-americans in the
joy ann reid, who's a reporter with msnbc and an author, says we shouldn't abandon black history month simply because we haven't perfected it. at the other end of the spectrum, fox news personality stacey dash feels basically it's un-american and should be abolished. your response to that? >> oh, my goodness. certainly, i cannot fathom abolishing the only month in america where we celebrate american history. let us first begin by saying black history month is where we study our history. if you disregard the contributions of individuals who have made such an impact on this nation, you lose so much of who the american fabric is. and we should take pride in the fact that there are individuals who were brought to this nation not of their own volition and have worked hard through enslavement, have worked hard to empower ourselves, and have set
across this nation, as kate has said, i get calls from across the world that say, tell us about that black history movement, that whole issue that you have going on over there that have made black people so great and america so great. so we have to embrace this history. and it needs to be now. >> yeah, dr. whitehead, people believe in so-called post racialism, which supposes all things and everyone is equal, argue that everyone's history should be celebrated, but celebrated together. >> i think that's the problem. i think we have to start by understanding black history is american history. it really should be seen as a part of american history and not seen as something separate. i believe in teaching black history 365, i am definitely in support black history should be taught every single day, like we learn american history as if it's something separate from black history. at the same time, i know that we can go through the american history curriculum, i have written curriculum for this country and you can
at all. you can go through and talk about the civil war and exclude the contributions of the blacks and the slaved americans. go through and talk about the civil rights movement and only talk about dr. king as if he's something special from the study of black people's contribution to this country. so i don't think we should abandon it. i think we should work to perfect it, but i also think that's the wonderful thing about america. we work to perfect our nation. we perfect our constitution, we perfect our love. we realize we've gotten it wrong and work to make it better. stacey dash's opinion on one side and joy ann reid on the other, two extremes. where can you get to a point where we're beginning to understand that everybody has contributed something to this nation and we have to combine all of these histories into one. it's a fabric we have to look at. >> all right, we have to take a break, we'll continue our discussion about black history month right after this.
welcome back. we continue our discussion this morning about black history. mr. henderson, what in your opinion does black history mean to the legions of young people who have embraced the black lives matter movement? >> well, i think in this election and as we approach south carolina, what we're going to see is a real concentration by both democratic candidates to attract the african-american vote. and i believe that it's going to be a real struggle. i think we're going to see african-americans lining up on both sides
of african-americans by asking the questions and really shaping their platform towards the african-american vote and what we need. >> do you think the appeals that are being made to reach out to them, you know, bernie sanders going to harlem, hillary clinton, you know, focusing on south carolina and reminding african-americans of the history and the members of the black caucus endorsing hillary clinton last week. do you think that it's going to have the kind of impact that we saw galvanize the black vote in 2008? >> no, i don't think it's going to galvanize it in the same way. i think that the current political structure is more challenged by how to attract young black people. black people in general. because it's gog
issue focused. 2008 was very emotional. black people came out to elect the first black president and the issues came behind that. we know there were struggles. now that we're at that platform, that's been done. we don't have to elect the first female president. we don't have to elect an individual who's a business person and has no experience. we're going to look at the issues and how politicians frame their support for those issues that are important to us is going to be a real interesting thing to watch. >> dr. whitehead, assuming it's more critical than ever before with unemployment the way it is, economy teetering on the brink of another recession with issues such as, you know, education and housing. all of these front and center. >> i think what's happening is that people are talking about the issues now. so we said 2008 was an emotional time. i know people who did
necessarily agree with president obama's policies but still voted for him. wanted to make that historic decision and be a part of history in motion. i understand that. now we're talking about the issues. and people are a lot more divided, they are not necessarily following hillary clinton because of their ties to bill clinton. they are looking at her reputation. they are looking at her record. they are looking at what she's promising to do and what she's delivered on in the past. i am surprised on one end so many young people are flocking to bernie sanders. when you look at what he's talking about and spelled out the issues, then you start to realize the voters in 2008 who wer people, have grown up under barack obama and are more concerned, no longer teenagers. they are concerned about housing and unemployment. concerned about education and what's happening in our communities and they are working to help galvanize young people. make your vote count, because it makes a difference. >> mr. henderson, draw the contrast, if you will, between the young people who marched in
ones we've seen over the past year marching in places like ferguson. >> well, i look at the civil rights movement as a continuum rather than a movement that's been bookmarked for convenience and study by the school systems, putting it between 1955 and 1965. there was significant civil rights activity before that, going back to, you know, the formation of the naacp, where tenner hill was the first branch established in the entire nation on tenner hill, and i see what's happening today is still fighting for civil rights and human rights. and that the young people of today, as in the '60s, as well, are leading the way such as organizations like snick, that were involved in the '60s. i see the people, the
people today, the justice league and the black lives matter movement as still a part of that same movement, moving forward, fighting for african-american civil rights. >> would you agree with that, it's a continuum? or is it a new thing? >> it's a continuum, but there's something new. dr. whitehead was talking about this, saying this, young people don't see that same need to have the leader like they did in the civil rights movement. they are all feeling empowered. everyone has something to say. i think this is good for america, because it's empowering everybody to have a voice. what are you saying about this, and you can create the league for today and tomorrow the next person can step up and they can have the lead. so it's different in that way, but young people have always made changes in america. the civil rights movement would not have been the movement. brown v.
would not have been as impactful if it weren't for young people. i think the lesson is we have to make sure our young people are educated, that they know their history, so that they can be the moving force, that energy, that really impacts and effects positive change for the nation. >> all right, got to take another break. we'll continue our talk in just a minute.
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las vegas, nevada, i learned in school about frederick douglas, mcleod, harriet luther king, rosa parks, and slavery. those are the same things, the same focuses, of black history lesson plans today. what needs to change? >> there's more than just those individuals. >> is there a resistance to expanding, going deeper in our schools? >> absolutely. i think part of it is there is only a certain amount of time that you have to execute a lesson plan and that's part of it, but there's also a resistance to accept the total story of america. we've done some great projects that we have provided to school districts free of charge that one of them is called freedom song and it was a wonderful piece, ten episodes of little known facts in black america. we took it to school districts and teachers actually said the race riots did not happen, america would never bomb black people. there was never a black wall
street. so if you don't know that you don't know, you just say they've really real. so i, you know, we have real challenges in terms of curriculum and that's the reason why the association does work, it's called the black history bulletin. we write curriculum for teachers so we can get that information out there so teachers have credible information that they know is the truth that they can share in classrooms and it's very important. >> dr. whitehead, you're an educator, you know all about the curricula out there. how would you make it more effective and more productive? >> i think there's a big disconnect. even though we learn the big sixes, that i call it, frederick douglas, there's a disconnect because what they are doing is they are collapsing the history of african-americans in this country down to one month. this notion that each week is something different, one week is civil rights movement, one is slavery, one is barack obama, one is where we are going forward and students get
confused. they start connecting harriet tubman to dr. king and not reali t difference in time and connecting barack obama, but they don't get confused about george washington and thomas jefferson because they had the ten months of school learning about that history, which we call white history, american history, but really white history because you talk only about white people during that time and remove our history. how can it be more productive? taking black history, putting it back into the curriculum and getting rid of black history month. as i said before, if you didn't have black history month, there would be places in this country that wouldn't talk about black history at all. >> i think it's worth pointing out there's a reason black history month is celebrated in february. carter g. woodson had birthdays in mind. abraham lincoln and frederick douglas. >> so, of course, i think it's interesting people don't know february used to be the celebration of american history, only month they set aside for american history before it was
picked up as negro history week and black history month. >> mr. henderson, some history month, some blacks say black history month has become a lot like christmas. too commercialized. do you agree with that? parades, dr. king's dream speech, singing. >> i don't think that they are commercializing it, but i'd like to address the question that you asked before. is there resistance? absolutely. it's not by the school systems, but by individuals that are teaching the subject matter. i am a retired u.s. history teacher in fairfax county public schools, and i constantly ran up against resistance to teach ideas that were actually in the curriculum, but because of things like the pacing schedule and things like that, decision
was made by the chair, the department chair or the principal, that we did not have have time to teach a unit that pertained to african-american month or to civil rights or to individuals that were instrumental in the reconstruction era and things like that. so you have to understand there is resistance, not by the school system curriculum, but by individuals within the school system that are teaching the subject matter that are not, should i say, indoctrinated or appreciative of african-american history. >> ms. cyrus, the question i initially asked about, black history month, has it become too commercial? is there too narrow a focus on the speeches and the parades? >> it's kind of interesting, when woodson started negro
history week, it was the culmination of a year's worth of research and he had many programs and promoted the fact be operas, there would be all aspect of black life, history, and culture. that piece is not problematic with me. the black history month sale by a given retailer or we're going to push watermelon or chocolate candy, that takes it to a whole different level. but i think there does have to be some level of celebration. there has to be some level that we really bring to the attention that you can take all this information and make it -- i don't want to say entertainment exactly, but some of that, so you can learn and like learning. so i'm okay with some of that.
not the watermelon, that's a problem. >> we'll be right back, stay with us. welcome back. mr. henderson, center hill foundation is located in falls church and you have a renaissance fair coming up on the 19th. >> harlem renaissance fair. harlem renaissance and renaissance fairs. everybody knows what renaissance fair is going back to medieval europe, but we're doing an evening of jazz and poetry, we have the jazz orchestra and we're also having a one-man play by david mills on the life and poetry of langston hughes. there will be reenactors, there will be food and drink, and there will be displays. >> all right, you have a black history luncheon on february 20th. >> my birthday! >> that's wonderful, you should come out.
everyone should. we'll have the 90th annual black history month luncheon hel hotel. it will begin at 10:00 a.m. with an author's book signing until 12:15, we'll have a luncheon featuring our own kate whitehead, who will be our guest speaker. if you want to know more, go to our website, for more informatin about the luncheon on february 20th. >> hallowed grounds, sights of african-american memories. we're going to talk next saturday about what it means to be standing on holy ground and come as far as we've come as african-americans and prepare for the next phase of our lives. >> dr. karsonya whitehead, sylvia cyrus, mr. edwin henderson, thank you for being
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