Filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman wants to cancel Black History Month. “Isn’t segregation by month still segregation?” is a question Tilghman examines in his documentary More Than A Month that airs tonight on PBS. I’ve been wrestling with the same question this month myself, wondering if I may have erred by not posting anything that overtly calls attention to itself as an important moment in the history of blacks in America.
Tilghman’s proposal to cancel Black History Month — meant to be provocative more than practical — is met with considerable resistance. Among the skeptics is his mother; without such a month, she doubts “anyone would say anything good about black people.” Others echo that theme, calling the filmmaker naive. Better to have the spotlight focused on our contribution briefly than not at all.
His counterargument is simple: Isn’t segregation by month still segregation? Making sure blacks have one month to tell their stories (a cold, short month) allows the mainstream culture to hold onto its dominant historical narrative, which centers almost exclusively on European settlers and immigrants. There’s no need to talk about the role played by black people; that’s what February is for.
Tom Jacobs Does Black History Need More Than a Month?
Given the real-life black history being promulgated throughout our entire society daily with the highly conspicuous African American occupant of the White House who presides over the entire nation, I’ll have to be honest - many of the important achievements of my forbears I’ve revisited these last few weeks pale in comparison to the excitement of the here and now feeling I get with the presidency of Barack Obama.
I can understand the reasoning behind Tilghman’s question, but at the same time, I have to agree with his mother—the average American will hear more this month about the positive contributions African Americans have made to society than all the other months of the year combined. Until our history books are more inclusive, Mr. Tilghman, I'll have to stick with old Dr. Carter G. Woodson himself on this one.