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Black History is American History

Texas A&M faculty discuss why curating and learning Black history is necessary to fully understand American history.

By Tiarra Drisker ‘25  

Black History Month exists as a commemoration of not only the hardships Black people overcome, but also the successes they accomplish despite inequities. This month also exists as a reminder of why the preservation and curating of Black history is important to America.

Black History Month takes place in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Before Black History Month, there was Negro History Week. Created in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, Negro History Week was intended to “deepen the study and scholarship on African American history all year long.” Throughout the 1960s, Black people around the country began celebrating February as Negro History Month. By 1976, Black History Month was being celebrated across the country and was even officially recognized by President Gerald Ford. Forty-six years later, Black History Month is still going strong.

“Black History Month is important because we need to celebrate our successes whether that is an individual, group, or organization that has contributed to society,” Rebecca Hankins, Africana resources librarian and curator, said. “It’s not just the famous and infamous that need to be highlighted, but also those who made contributions to their family, community, and the global society.”

Black History Month teaches the vital lesson that Black and African American history is American history. 

“America was built upon 246 years of Black slavery, followed soon by about 90 years of totalitarian Jim Crow segregation — altogether about 80% of our history,” Joe Feagin, a professor in the Department of Sociology, said. “It was Black leaders and Black activists who led many uprisings against these extreme systems of racial oppression and forced the country’s white elite to eventually concede more democracy and racial justice. In addition, the efforts of Black inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, political leaders, and civil rights leaders have regularly enhanced the lives of all Americans.”

Curating and learning about Black history is essential for everyone no matter their background, but Black History Month is also beneficial for making Black people feel recognized.

“Celebrating Black History Month sends the message: ‘We acknowledge you, see you, hear you, and celebrate you,’” Hankins explained.  

The success Black people are able to accomplish is just as important as the systematic oppression and racism they face. Black History Month offers Texas A&M University the opportunity to celebrate its own successes. Sharing the stories of former students like Kevin Phillip Roberts ‘89 who served as the university’ first Black drum major, Ronnie McDonald ‘93 who served as the first Black Yell Leader, and Marquis Alexander ‘13 who served as the first Black Corps Commander highlights important moments in Texas A&M history when Aggies achieved success and brought the university a step closer to equality. 

“These stories profile those individuals who came before us, who succeeded in different ways, and left a legacy of accomplishments,” Hankins shared. “Legacy is very important here at Texas A&M, so it’s critical to share the stories of our Black former students who are a central part of the Aggie spirit.”