What year did Reuben Greenberg become the first African-American police chief of Charleston? What year was the 13th Amendment ratified? Who was the first African-American to graduate from Harvard?
During Black History Month we will be bombarded with questions like these and feel like idiots for not knowing the answers, especially if we are African-American.
And when you do learn the answers, all of them might jumble in your brain and slowly leak out by March.
Yes, knowing the facts of black history is important, but this month is so much more than that. It’s about honoring and appreciating black achievement. We need to dig deeper to find out what blacks went through to achieve their goals and make their mark on American history. You’ll be inspired.
My favorite way to appreciate black history is through the arts. Jacob Lawrence’s series of Great Migration paintings beautifully tell the story of blacks’ struggles while moving up North.
I was able to see three of the paintings in person a few years ago.
His vibrant works arouse emotions and make you feel like you are in the hustle and bustle, trying to catch a cramped train to a place you’ve never been before.
That’s something you’ll never get from a trivia question.
The great thing about living in Charleston is that our city is a part of black history.
Each Saturday in February, Magnolia Plantation will host “From Slavery to Freedom: A Testament of Time” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
They’ll have storytellers, cabin tours and a tour of their cemetery where the blacks who cultivated Magnolia’s gardens are laid to rest.
Other places such as the Gibbes Museum of Art and College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center allow people to really feel black history.
And then there is the living history among us, too.
Local pastor and community activist James Johnson said he’s been a champion for civil rights for 28 years. He’s been involved with the Rainbow Coalition, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and now his own organization, The Coalition. Johnson said people should honor this month by learning about the rich history of African-Americans.
“Our history started way before slavery, but people can only talk about things we invented and why we’re here.
“We come from kings and queens. Young people need to know that. History needs to be taught 12 months out of the year to educate our people,” Johnson said during a Coalition meeting last week.
Whether or not you agree with Black History Month (in an ideal world black history would be acknowledged all year because it’s American history), it’s here.
So yes, make sure you know the facts, but also celebrate by feeding your soul with inspiration you wouldn’t get from memorizing dates and names.
And in case you didn’t know, Reuben Greenberg became the first black police chief in 1982.
Slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment in 1865.
And Richard T. Greener graduated from Harvard in 1870.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.