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At Montgomery College News and Information

Reflection: Black History Is American History

Editor’s note: This story is part of our MC faculty and staff series in which professors and/or staff members discuss relevant topics within their areas of expertise. Eniola Olowofoyeku is program operations coordinator at MC’s International and Multicultural Center.

By Eniola Olowofoyeku

African heritage performer on the Takoma Park Silver Spring Campus.
Global Connections holds Black History Month events every year, including this in-person celebration in 2020.

Many of us who attended school in the United States took a history class in grade school and even in college. Regardless of whether it was world history or American history, you probably did not hear nor learn much of anything about the involvement of Blacks/people of African descent. That missing link in the equation is crucial to fully understanding both American—and world—history. It is also key to understanding our present situation, and thinking about how, and what, we should do to move toward securing a better future in our country through equity and inclusion for all.

There are many places to learn, and the Montgomery College International and Multicultural Center’s Global Connections program and the College’s Africa and Diaspora Heritage Committee provide valuable resources.

“In learning the history of a nation, we must be open and ready to learn both the good and the unpleasant parts of our history. To do this, we need more truth-telling spaces.”

For me, the African Adinkra symbol of the Sankofa is what always comes to my mind when I consider this. The symbol appears as a bird with its head turned looking backward, while holding an egg in its beak. The meaning of the Sankofa is “to go back and retrieve it” or “it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” The symbol teaches us there is wisdom in learning from the past, which ensures a strong future.

Truth Telling Spaces

Because of this standard omission of Blacks in education, Harvard-educated Dr. Carter G. Woodson created the Association for the Study of African (formerly Negro) American Life and History (ASALH). He launched Negro History Week in 1926, which would later become Black History Month after his death in 1976.

Dr. Woodson travelled, observed, and studied diverse Black cultures. But many are unaware he chose February to be a time when we would not only highlight and celebrate accomplishments and history of Black peoples from the U.S., but also those worldwide. No matter how far we think we have come as a country, the need to educate still exists today.

Many of the narratives we hear need to be rewritten to include Black people, as well as other marginalized peoples, so we will know the accurate history of the United States. Of course, the issues of racism and white supremacy will come up and cannot be avoided. In learning the history of a nation, we must be open and ready to learn both the good and the unpleasant parts of our history. To do this, we need more truth-telling spaces.

African-American booth on campus.
The Global Connections program offers many educational resources.

As a child, I had the opportunity to meet, listen, and learn at the feet of civil rights activists as well as scholars such as James Farmer, Stockley Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Rev. C. T. Vivian, Ivan Van Sertima, Runoko Rashidi, John Henrik Clark, and many others. This is where I would acquire firsthand knowledge about the struggles and history of Black people. I am forever grateful to my parents, grandparents, professors, mentors, various changemakers, and activists for steering me on the historian’s path at a very early age.

Begin Your Journey

I encourage you to start your journey now. The 28-day observation can be expanded to 365 days a year. We as individuals must commit to inclusiveness. We must acknowledge all of the facts about events, people, places, things, and ideas. A great place to start is the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. This museum has a plethora of virtual resources and interactive exhibits covering several centuries of Black history.

Visit the website for more information from MC’s International and Multicultural Center’s Global Connections program and the College’s Africa and Diaspora Heritage Committee.

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