Black History Month is more important than ever

2/1/2024, 6 p.m.
In 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) first …
Mr. Woodson

In 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) first conceived “Negro History Week” for the second week of February, the idea was to celebrate and remember the struggles and achievements in the history of the African diaspora.

That notion still holds true as we celebrate the start today — Feb. 1 — of Black History Month, which is celebrated here in the United States and Canada, and in Ireland and the United Kingdom in October.

While our community has a lot to be thankful for since Mr. Woodson’s wonderful proclamation, there still is much work to be done. The political vitriol and party-line divisiveness that are on display in this country today harken back to a time long ago when the rights of African-Americans, in particular, were under assault by the protagonists of Jim Crow.

Even history books are being assailed by some on the far-right as propaganda that’s meant to make white people feel guilty about this country’s racist past. Of course, that’s preposterous. Black history is American history and the stories of our triumphs and struggles need to be told.

Perhaps that’s why it is more important than ever that African-Americans make it a priority to get out and vote. It is critical that we elect serious and fair-minded politicians. In local elections. In state primaries. In the congressional midterms. And, of course, the presidential race.

The tenet of one man, one vote is part of the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement and helped dig black people out from the craters of racism to the open air of fairness and equity in this country.

Virginia voters, in particular, have made their presence felt, as evidenced by the historic racial and gender diversity in the General Assembly. It truly was a significant moment in early January

when Portsmouth Democrat Don Scott became the first black person chosen to lead the 405-year-old Virginia House of Delegates.

“Every time I look around this room I see this: I see the ghosts of those people who worked here, those black folks who were enslaved here, whose dignity and humanity was discounted right here in this room,” Delegate Scott said during his swearing-in ceremony.

Virginia voters also gave Democrats thin majorities in the Senate and House of Delegates last fall, bringing in leadership changes and other firsts. Some of those General Assembly milestones: Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears will preside over the state Senate, while Delegate Scott wields the gavel in the House of Delegates.

Many of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus’ record 32 members hold top spots. Sen. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, is the first transgender lawmaker to serve in the Senate. And a record 15 women are included among the Senate’s 40 members. The 21-person Senate Democratic Caucus is now majority female with 11 women in its ranks.

Indeed, voters should be proud of the change they’ve brought to Virginia. It is significant.

But never forget how far we’ve come to get to this place. We owe that to the memory of Mr. Woodson and countless others who have engaged in the struggle.

Happy Black History Month!