Black History is American History
In America, it seems that as soon as a day, a week or a month is officially designated to honor race, gender, a person or people, or an event it becomes a “celebration”. As a nation we end up “celebrating” people and events in easy to digest ways, instead of honoring the full person, the full story, acknowledging moments of failure, or our nation’s greatest failings and harms. History is multifaceted, made up of the good the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. From where I stand, real Black History hasn’t been integrated into the shared and commonly accepted version of our Nation’s history.
In Wilmington, DE where I live, there is a rich African American history. Black Delawareans not only fought for their own equality and civil rights, but also for disenfranchised people throughout the state. Civil rights attorney Louis L. Redding was from Delaware. He is responsible for the case that desegregated the University of Delaware, and he was part of the legal team that brought Brown v. The Board of Education to the Supreme court (two of the cases were from Black Delaware families).
Redding is a famous Wilmingtonian, but it wasn’t until Black History Month this year that I learned his home in Wilmington is a museum. And it wasn’t until 2016 that a historic marker was placed outside of his home on the city’s east side. I don’t remember ever learning about Redding in school.
Today, the Wilmington’s east side is a predominantly Black neighborhood, and identified as a lower-income neighborhood. The east side was not only home to Redding, but sits in close proximity to Howard High School, at one time, the only Black High School in the state. Any Black student in Delaware wanting to complete high school had to attend Howard. Black students from Southern Delaware stayed with friends, family, teachers, and even the school principal in order to complete their education. A neighborhood that was home to Louis L. Redding, civil rights icon, and the truly Historic Howard High School has seen little change in the past 30 years in regard to its economic status and advancement in Wilmington.
Black History Month in Delaware is marked by special programs, in classrooms, through essay contests, and exhibitions at the Delaware Historical Society. What started out as Negro History Week in the 1925 expanded to Black History Month in 1976 with President Ford urging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” I’m not knocking any of it, but it feels predictable and insignificant in comparison to the actual contribution of African American people to American History. In my life I haven’t seen America or Americans, or Wilmingtonians and Delawareans truly endeavor to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans. Unfortunately, that charge has still been left for Black community to lead.
Amy Loder is a passionate and creative thinker and doer. She is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, growing up in family that valued and worked for racial equality and justice, loved the arts, and instilled in her a deep love for humanity. Ms. Loder works as a personal stylist (http://amyloder.com), has extensive experience in the fields of business development and production. She has lived in NYC, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.