FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 09, 2009
Obama era reopens questions about value of Black History Month
Look for a Black History Month news report, commentary, photo or events list. Is it identified with a graphic logo or special presentation?
Journalists strive for "mainstreaming," which involves quoting and picturing diverse community members in coverage unrelated to their ethnicity, race or gender. Find an example, such as an African American student, educator, parent or business person featured in coverage not about Black History Month.
Readers may share opinions about Black History Month in letters to the editor, blogs and online comment forums. See if you spot a discussion. Talk about your views and consider sending a message to the paper.
During a month when schools, colleges, advertisers and news media give extra attention to African American history, a nagging question is heard more widely: Do we still need a Black History Month? Those who say "no" point out that slavery ended 146 years ago, the Civil Rights Act passed 45 years ago and a black president was inaugurated three weeks ago.
Critics feel it's condescending to designate a month for special focus on the heritage of one race. "I don't want a Black History Month," actor Morgan Freeman says. "Black history is American history."
Observances around the country this month include art exhibits, concerts, readings, lectures, worship services and other presentations of many types. Barack Obama's presidency lets educators connect historic figures to 2009. Some teach about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for leading a movement that planted millions of trees in Africa. Obama, whose dad was from Kenya, planted a tree in her program while visiting the continent. And like Martin Luther King Jr., Maathai was jailed for fighting injustice.
Historian says: "I don't see it going away. There's a Women's History Month. No one would argue that we don't need to be reminded of women who have done things that are important." - Professor Spencer Crew, George Mason University in Virginia
Columnist says: "This country has reached a point where we are can stop celebrating separately, stop learning separately, stop being American separately. . . . I propose that Black History Month be no more." - Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press
Blogger says: "Black History Month feels especially significant this year. . . . Everywhere one looked during Inauguration weekend were reminders of how Black history and American history had converged." - Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, blogging at The Huffington Post
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