Black History Month helps tell story of great America

Cliff Harrington
Cliff Harrington

We in America don’t share the exact same history, but we do share history that branches from a common thread. One way or another, we’re linked to the building of these United States.

There are Americans whose forefathers – either as native people or immigrants – were on this land before the country formed. There are others whose forefathers voluntarily came after Columbus’ discovery. And there are people, like me, whose forefathers were forced to come as slaves.

Every legacy should be respected and honored. That’s why Black History Month should be more than a checkpoint on the calendar. It should be important.

Most people know of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. You also may know names like George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, maybe even Josephine Baker, Shirley Chisholm, Frederick Douglass or W.E.B. Du Bois.

Knowing a few names of famous African-Americans is like knowing about only George Washington, Benjamin Franklin or Alexander Graham Bell, and thinking you know American history. If you know only that, you don’t know much and can’t appreciate the complete story that should be told in all U.S. history classes.

That complete story should also mix equal portions of all histories of the people who make up this country. Obviously, that includes black history.

Have you read about Dr. Charles R. Drew? Have you read about Paul Robeson? Have you read about Madam C.J. Walker? Have you read about Benjamin Banneker? Mary McLeod Bethune? Althea Gibson?

All were great Americans. They helped weave the tapestry that the patriotic among us call “America.”

As I said, I’m descended from slaves born in the Carolinas (Richmond and Anson counties in North Carolina, and Marlboro and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina). They were freed thanks to Abraham Lincoln and the Union winning the Civil War. Some bought land and farmed to survive. Others became business men and women by producing turpentine. Still others learned about cars and became mechanics.

I’m a decendant of a Korean War hero and people who’ve served in law enforcement.

I’m not unique. Lots of African-Americans can tell of similar histories.

It’s the history of America. You can hear the history in York County and Rock Hill. Parts of the history are unpleasant and sad. Other parts are uplifting and filled with a resolve that beat almost-impossible odds.

Told in its entirety, the story of America can instill in us all feelings of pride, patriotism, respect, self-esteem, and kinship as fellow countrypeople.

When you fail to tell the whole story, there’s hurt, resentment, distrust and division.

That’s why Black History Month is important to all of America. In order to be a true patriot, you should respect the history of all who carry the label “American.”