The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Viewpoint: What is black history?

Viewpoint: What is black history? - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

A record number of students from Texas A&M University- San Antonio marched alongside other universities and organizations at the 2019 MLK March on January 21, 2019. Photo by Sasha Robinson.

Black history in America started the day men and women were taken from their homelands during the transatlantic slave trade, and forced to live a life of servitude to the colonizers of the United States. One thing I can tell you, Black History is only celebrated through the month of February when people are asked to wear African attire or historically black college shirts to honor the month.

Though slavery should be frowned upon, it should also be remembered because it is a part of both African-American history and American history.

According to an article in the Guardian, “Textbook passage referring to slaves as ‘workers’ prompts outcry,” McGraw-Hill Education’s World Geography book implies that African slaves were “workers” who came to the United States as immigrants. The use of the word “workers” was interpreted by some as an attempt to rewrite history.  *McGraw-Hill later apologized and promised to fix the offending passage in future editions of the book.

Unlike Germany, who acknowledges how Nazis carried out the genocide of over 6 million Jewish people, some people in the United States would attempt to rewrite history to make it seem as if slavery never happened.

You can rewrite the narrative or even have a former White House cabinet member refer to slaves as immigrants looking for a better life. But, it will not change the fact that slaves were raped, lynched and separated from their families.

This is Black History.

According to website,  Black History Month was founded in 1926 as “Negro History Week” by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. As time went on and people of all colors showed an interest in learning more, it became Black History Month in 1976.

African-Americans would serve this country in many political offices, such as Shirley Anita Chisholm who became the first African-American woman elected to congress. Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas both served on the Supreme Court of the United States. And Barack Obama became the first African-American to serve as President of the United States.

African-Americans have had a significant impact on the history of music too. Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music and Michael Jackson was known as “The King of Pop.” Langston Hughes was a big part of the Harlem Renaissance with jazz music. Prince Rogers Nelson’s style and creativity was a big part of the jazz music scene and Motown Records would open the door for many black singers to work their way into the hearts of Americans.

When Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier in 1947, he opened the door to a wave of minority athletes who would change the landscape of sports. Hank Aaron went on to break the all-time Major League Baseball home run record. In the NFL, Warren Moon and Doug Williams disproved the negative stereotype about the black quarterback, and Lebron James would become a philanthropist by using his influence to create opportunities for youth to succeed in life outside of sports.

African-Americans also fought in wars for their country. Crispus Attucks is one of the first casualties of the American Revolution when he and four other colonists were killed during the Boston Massacre.

Many other African-American men would fight in the Civil War, both World Wars and the Vietnam war. When these men returned home, they were mistreated by the very people they pledged to defend.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali said he would rather go to jail and lose everything than fight in the Vietnam War.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America,” Ali said. “And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick wanted to bring awareness to the killing of innocent men and women of color at the hands of law enforcement by not standing for the National Anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug 27, 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

After slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws were created throughout the south which legalized racial segregation. African-Americans were not allowed to be in the same waiting rooms, drink from the same water fountains or ride in the same elevators as whites.

Just like the mistreatment of Native Americans, slavery and the Jim Crow laws are stains on this country’s history.

Tired of being oppressed and discriminated against, a movement lead by Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party would encourage blacks to stand up against segregation, law enforcement’s intimidation tactics, church burnings, beatings and the murder of young men of color. For that, they were labeled as terrorists.

According to the the website the Panthers purpose was to patrol African-American neighborhoods to protect residents from acts of police brutality.

X’s “By any means necessary,” were considered to be violent, yet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  would lead nonviolent protests by marching in the streets and staging sit-ins at local cafes and bus stations. Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old girl, would be the first African-American child to integrate into an all-white school in New Orleans.

Through all of this, like the famous chants during the protest, African-Americans overcame all odds, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, outlawing discrimination based on sex, race, religion and national origin.

The city would continue to honor King’s legacy by re-enacting the non-violent marches every year since Jan. 19, 1987.

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On Jan. 21, a record number of students from Texas A&M University-San Antonio joined over 100,000 people to walk two miles on Martin Luther King Drive in San Antonio, in remembrance of King’s legacy.

The march began on a gloomy morning in front of Martin Luther King Academy and ended with a festival on a sunny afternoon at Pittman-Sullivan Park.

People used the time to express how they felt about the direction the country is going and their feelings toward President Donald Trump. Some marchers held signs which said “Build bridges not Walls” or “Love Trumps hate.”

People of all races, gender, religion and status in society danced to Michael Jackson’s “Blame it on the Boogie” and listened to King’s speeches on loudspeaker from churches along the route.

With the Jim Crow laws long gone, retired marine Sgt. William Bell and his daughter Willow, who are African-American, made new friends with Colby Vignes and her son Audrey, who are caucasian. The four new friends laughed as they met and enjoyed the march together.    

This is Black History.

The next time you call an African-American the “N” word or say “go back to your country” just remember they did not ask to migrate to this country. They were forced from their homes, sold as property and treated worse than animals to serve their masters. Through these difficult times, African-Americans have risen like the phoenix through the ashes and have become influential in the makeup of this great nation.

So when you ask, “What is black history”, it’s everywhere.

About the Author

Sasha D. Robinson
Sasha D. Robinson graduated from San Antonio College in 2018 with an associate degree in journalism. After school, he worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before making the decision to go back to school for his bachelor’s in communication at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. While attending school, Sasha has written articles for The Mesquite and the 49ers Webzone. He is a producer for VYPE Media. Sasha's career goals are to be a sports radio personality. Sasha's first love is football, and he is a die-hard San Francisco 49er fan, and his favorite video game character is Mega Man. He also loves movies such as “Star Wars “(not the Disney ones), the first two “Terminator” movies, “Star Trek” and the “Fast and Furious” series. He is an avid lover of music, video games and anything creative in this crazy world.

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