Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month

Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month

February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month.  Each year U.S. residents set aside a few weeks to focus their historical hindsight on the particular contributions that people of African descent have made to this country.  While not everyone agrees Black History Month is a good thing, here are several reasons why I think it’s appropriate to celebrate this occasion.

The History of Black History Month

First, let’s briefly recount the advent of Black History Month.  Also called African American History Month, this event originally began as Negro History Week in 1926. It took place during the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.  Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, is credited with the creation of Negro History Week.

In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week into a full month.  He said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Objections to Black History Month

Black History Month has been the subject of criticism from both Blacks and people of other races.  Some argue that it is unjust and unfair to devote an entire month to a single people group.  Others contend that we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year.  Setting aside only one month, they say, gives people license to neglect this past for the remaining eleven months.

Despite the objections, though, I believe some good can come from devoting a season to remembering a people who have made priceless deposits into the account of our nation’s history.  Here are five reasons why we should celebrate Black History Month.

1. Celebrating Black History Months Honors the Historic Leaders of the Black Community

I have the privilege of living in Jackson, Mississippi which is the site of many significant events in Black History.  I’ve heard Myrlie Evers, the wife of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, speak at local and state events.  It’s common to see James Meredith, the first African American student at Ole Miss, in local churches or at community events.

Heroes like these and many more deserve honor for the sacrifice and suffering they endured for the sake of racial equality.  Celebrating Black History Month allows us to pause and remember their stories so that we can commemorate their achievements.

2. Celebrating Black History Month Helps Us to Be Better Stewards of the Privileges We’ve Gained 

Several years spent teaching middle school students impaled me with the reality that if we don’t tell the old, old stories the next generation, and we ourselves, will forget them.  It pained me to have to explain the significance of the Harlem Renaissance and the Tuskegee Airmen to children who had never learned of such events and the men and women who took part in them.

To what would surely be the lament of many historic African American leaders, my students and so many others (including me) take for granted the rights that many people before them sweated, bled, and died to secure.   Apart from an awareness of the past we can never appreciate the blessings we enjoy in the present.

3. Celebrating Black History Month Provides an Opportunity to Highlight the Best of Black History & Culture 

All too often only the most negative aspects of African American culture and communities get highlighted.  We hear about the poverty rates, incarceration rates, and high school drop out rates.  We are inundated with images of unruly athletes and raunchy reality TV stars as paradigms of success for Black people.  And we are daily subject to unfair stereotypes and assumptions from a culture that is, in some aspects, still learning to accept us.

Black History Month provides the chance to focus on different aspects of our narrative as African Americans.  We can applaud Madam C.J. Walker as the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.  We can let our eyes flit across the verses of poetry Phyllis Wheatley, the first African American poet and first African American female to publish a book.  And we can groove to soulful jazz and somber blues music composed by the likes of Miles Davis and Robert Johnson.  Black History Month spurs us to seek out and lift up the best in African American accomplishments.

4. Celebrating Black History Month Creates Awareness for All People

I recall my 8th grade history textbook where little more than a page was devoted to the Civil Rights Movement.  I remember my shock as a Christian to learn about the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church because in all my years in churches and Christian schools no one had ever mentioned it.

Unfortunately it seems that, apart from intentional effort, Black history is often lost in the mists of time.  When we observe Black History Month we give citizens of all races the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which they may have little awareness.

5. Celebrating Black History Month Reminds Us All that Black History Is Our History 

It pains me to see people overlooking Black History Month because Black history—just like Latino, Asian, European, and Native American history—belongs to all of us. Black and White, men and women, young and old.  The impact African Americans have made on this country is part of our collective consciousness.  Contemplating Black history draws people of every race into the grand and diverse story of this nation.

Why Christians Should Celebrate Black History Month

As a believer, I see racial and ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s manifold beauty.  No single race or its culture can comprehensively display the infinite glory of God’s image, so He gave us our differences to help us appreciate His splendor from various perspectives.

God’s common and special grace even work themselves out in the providential movement of a particular race’s culture and history.  We can look back on the brightest and darkest moments of our past and see God at work.  He’s weaving an intricate tapestry of events that climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And one day Christ will return. On that day we will all look back at the history–not just of a single race but of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue–and see that our Creator had a plan all along.  He is writing a story that points to His glory, and in the new creation, His people won’t have a month set aside to remember His greatness. We’ll have all eternity.

Civil rights legend Meredith says he’s on a mission from God

Civil rights legend Meredith says he’s on a mission from God

In this June 27, 2018 photograph, civil rights movement figure and activist James Meredith, 85, discusses, at a Jackson, Miss., library, his latest plan to action, “a mission from God” that involves him visiting all 82 Mississippi counties and preaching about following the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)


James Meredith is a civil rights legend who resists neatly defined narratives.

He integrated the University of Mississippi while braving mob violence in 1962 — yet he worked in the late 1980s for archconservative Sen. Jesse Helms, considered a foe by many in the civil rights movement.

Wounded by shotgun fire while marching for voting rights in 1966, Meredith also shuns the title of “civil rights icon,” as if civil rights are different from other rights.

Now, at 85, Meredith could rest assured of a place in history. But he says he’s on a new mission from God — to confront what he sees as society’s “breakdown of moral character” by encouraging people to live by the Ten Commandments.

He says black people must lead the way for Christians of all races to have spiritual healing.

“If the black Christians focus on teaching right, doing right, all other Christian religions would follow suit,” Meredith says. “Instead of religion healing the black-white race issue, the race issue is going to heal everything and correct all the rest of our problems.”

Meredith made the remarks during an interview with The Associated Press at a Jackson public library where he’s a frequent patron.


Courtesy of Ole Miss News


Wearing cool white slacks, a white shirt and a straw hat, Meredith was approached by an African-American woman with three young girls. She thanked him for making Mississippi a better place and introduced him to the children.

Meredith, a slender man with a white beard, asked her to speak up because he doesn’t hear as well as he used to. The children shyly shook his hand. They posed for a picture, and the youngest girl kissed him on the cheek as she left. Meredith smiled.

“I’ve been in the God business all my life,” Meredith says. “Ole Miss to me was nothing but a mission from God. The Meredith March Against Fear was my most important mission from God, until this one coming up right now: Raising the moral character up, and making people aware of their duty to follow God’s plan and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Meredith grew up in segregated Mississippi, served in the Air Force and sued to gain admission as the first black student at the state’s flagship university. Facing resistance from the governor and riots that led to two deaths, Meredith enrolled at Ole Miss in 1962, under federal court order and protected by U.S. marshals. He graduated with a political science degree.

In June 1966, Meredith set out to prove a black man could walk through Mississippi without fear, aiming to trek from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson. On the second day, a white man shot and wounded him. Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., arrived to continue the march.

Since the 1960s, Meredith has been in and out of the public eye. He’s been married and raised children and involved himself in Republican politics. He’s run a used car dealership and has spoken on college campuses.

Always independent, Meredith is an iconoclast who says things that can sound grating to people who otherwise see him favorably. For instance, he sharply criticizes a black mother who left her 6-year-old son in her car last year while she went into a Jackson grocery store at night; the car was stolen, the boy was killed and young black men were charged in the crime.

He also wades into the issue of police treatment of black people. He says people fail to discuss whether Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was stealing before he was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Georgia Cohran, an African-American resident of Jackson, was a child in Oxford in 1962. She remembers the fear when Meredith enrolled, and the sense of wonder that a black student was finally studying on the campus where many African-Americans, including her mother, worked as cooks. She has known Meredith for years and he has spoken at the church she attends.

“To really understand Mr. Meredith, I think you would have to look at him through brown eyes instead of blue eyes,” Cohran said. “In my opinion, he’s not very complicated. He’s just focused — a very intelligent, focused black man.”

For about two decades, Meredith has handed out photocopies of the Ten Commandments. He says he wants to form a lay religious order called a Bible Society and envisions people studying in small groups and holding each other accountable.

“You only have a good society when everybody’s business is everybody’s business,” he says.

Explaining his new mission, Meredith radiates calm confidence. An African-American man, about college age, has been studying at the next table in the library. The man closes his books and turns to listen. He clearly knows who Meredith is, and the young man is absorbing the older man’s words.

Later, as a reporter waves goodbye, Meredith raises a black power fist and lowers himself into his Honda Civic. The young man from the library walks over and taps on the car window. Meredith rolls it down and the young man smiles and shakes his hand.