As we near the close of Black History Month, let’s take a moment to reflect on why this event remains important in American history.
Many of the injustices we would like to consider in the past remain in our present. It would be easy to simply brush aside the open (and hidden) prejudices, hateful words and systemic hurdles behind us — but that would be akin to planting our heads into the sand.
While we, as a society, have made great strides over the past 50 years, we still have far to go in putting these issues behind us.
Black History Month can be traced back to the campus of Kent State University in 1970. Support for the campaign quickly gained traction and reached the desk of former President Gerald Ford in 1976. Following his official recognition, the campaign has grown as an education opportunity for schools, communities and the general population.
In the following 42 years, the nation elected its first black president, Barack Obama — a powerful symbol of change — yet still finds itself trying to shed many of the same prejudices common 142 years ago. Progress sometimes comes in fits and starts.
Interestingly, Galveston County holds a special place in black history with the growing recognition of the Juneteenth celebration. Dating back to 1865, the event in Galveston is considered the final step in the abolishment of slavery in the United States. Texas, a member of the Confederacy, had yet to recognize the Emancipation Proclamation as issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. It was not until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston to bring news that the war had ended, were those enslaved set free.
Fast forward to the present and we find ourselves in a world continuing to fight for the equality of all, free of prejudice and hatefulness.
And to be frank, social scientists say this element of human nature may always exist. But by having the courage to be always be addressing issues and searching for solutions, the anxiety of the unknown tends to fade.
Granted, we have come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead. Let’s use Black History Month as a teaching opportunity for each new generation so they can build toward an even better society.
• Leonard Woolsey