February 24, 2021
By Nate Little
As part of Black History Month, the Phoenix present Nate’s Favorite Facts: A Journey Through African American History.
February 6th marks 152 years since Congress ratified the 15th Amendment; guaranteeing the right for all men to vote in 1870. The 15th Amendment entitles American Citizens to vote where no contradictions apply on account of race, color, and servitude. This act offered great services typically for people of color who lacked the superiority of their rights in America. The termination of denying voting rights to individuals was extremely important; certifying that they also have a say for when and how their country developed. However, there are many aspects of our history that need to be fixed and yet are still broken to this day. The 15th amendment took a big step in offering greater protections from suffrage, however, the amendment still applied significant limitations to people of color. Specifically, African Americans received a blessing and a curse. Many social and economic opportunities in the late 19th century ceased to exist for minorities, with Blacks having to deal with that loss of political power for decades through centuries of hardships.
The amendment was written in 1869, when various congressmen—who supported the Southern States—agreed to add what they call a “Grandfather Clause”, which is a condition added for Blacks who could only vote if their ancestors had voted before the clause came to be in the 1860s. This set back many African Americans from voting for 3 years, up until Congress ratified the particular clause in 1870. For more than 50 years, the overwhelming majority of African American citizens were reduced to second-class citizenship under the “Jim Crow” segregation system, which used racist government structures to deny suffrage and other basic human rights.
Since 1870, we have seen significant changes that affected African Americans, which were sought for civility by blacks in order to secure their rights and improve their position through various organizations. This is how institutions such as the Black Panther Party, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Urban League, came to be run by college students, who saw the inequality of their citizenship as Americans . Through their hard work and effort, individuals of black descent reformed against injustice. Such individuals as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and A. Philip Randolph, to name only a few, stood on providing real equality for their people in America. To this day, we can only hope for equity to provide blacks with recognition and importance. Therefore we remember the important work for equality started by ratifying The 15th Amendment, and we remember that such work is far from finished.
On February 27th, 95 years ago, Carter G Woodson announced the creation of Negro History Week, which soon became Black History Month, originally designed around the second week in February to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson was a black author, editor, publisher, and historian who spent significant time constructing his intelligence to fight against the problems he saw in America. His belief in Black History stood on a firm foundation for young Black Americans to plan their legacy and purpose in order to become productive citizens within their society. He published books and magazines such as, “The Mis-education of the Negro”, or “The Development of the Alternative Black Curriculum”, to galvinize African Americans to recognize their roots and establish reform off of the injustices received for generations.
He was influenced by his parents, who were born without being able to read or write, and worked as slaves. His father greatly shaped Woodson by telling him that, “learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle, to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul.” Carter Woodson experienced much hardship in his life, such as being denied an education so he could continue to labor as a slave, but somehow he managed to learn independently, mastering the fundamentals of every school subject before turning 17.
He devoted his life to educational pursuit; first in the United States, achieving his Bachelor degree in literature at Berea College, then to the Philippines where he worked as a school supervisor. He traveled across Europe, studying at Sorbonne University (an institution in Paris, France). This led to more of his academic achievements, and he received his Master's Degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He created a non-profit organization in 1915 known today as A.S.A.L.H. (The Association for the Study of African American Life and History) where curious individuals can learn about the history and roots of African Americans. Later, he got involved more in journalism, and created a journal dedicated to African American History, which covered African American life and history throughout their many hardships.
In order to increase recognition for Blacks, he created Negro History Week, which dedicated a week’s worth of time to learning about African American History. One of my appreciations for him is he gave me the opportunity to educate people of our history from a weekly to a monthly time. The only reservation Woodson had was the hope that one day Black History Month would be less relevant. Woodson concluded that black history should no doubt be an integral part of our American History, but is constantly flawed from wrongful injustices on African Americans, and the revolution of their long-term injustice. Until this day, we still have Black History Month in order to recognize where we came from, and how much work is left to resolve the never-ending inequality for African Americans in America.