Praise and criticismAlready in the 1920s, Woodson’s celebration became popular and raised awareness in the African-American community. This awareness became a force behind the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, when leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcom X fought hard against racism and segregation. Although Black History Month is still very popular today, it has also been criticized, often by some African-Americans themselves. The actor Morgan Freedman, for example, said: “You're going to relegate my history to a month? I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Curiously, Woodson himself hoped that one day the celebration he founded could become superfluous and, eventually, could be eliminated. He hoped this would happen when African-American history would be rightfully integrated into US history.
Black Lives MatterThe question is: has this already happened? Many believe that the struggle against racism and prejudice is not yet over. Since 2013 a new movement called Black Lives Matter (BLM) has emerged from the African-American community. Its members claim that African-Americans are still the victims of racism and unfair treatment. Their aim is very similar to Woodson’s: “[Black Lives Matter] is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” The activists of BLM promote their ideas using social media, hashtag activism and more traditional direct action, such as protests and demonstrations. Their work has been effective and praised. For example, BLM activists finished fourth in Time Magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year list. Commenting positively on BLM, Time stated that “a new civil rights movement is turning a protest cry into a political force.”
Black PantherThis year several official events celebrated Black History Month, but there was also a very popular ‘unofficial’ one: the premiere of the blockbuster Black Panther. This film tells the story of an African superhero, the heir to the throne of the fictional country of Wakanda. The screenwriters, the director and the majority of the cast of Black Panther are African-American, and this is an absolute first for a mega-budget movie. The director Ryan Coogler’s first film was about racial discrimination, and Black Panther touches upon similar issues in a different way. It goes beyond Western stereotypes of Africa and Africans and offers a complex and positive portrayal of black people. A New York philanthropist, Frederick Joseph, felt that the role models offered by the film were so important that he set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help poor, black Harlem children see the film. More than 200 similar campaigns expanded the project to dozens of other US cities. As Joseph stated: “All children deserve to believe they can save the world, go on exciting adventures, or accomplish the impossible.”
USEFUL WEBSITES 1) Learn more about African-American History Month: http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/ http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month 2) Who was Carter G. Woodson? Read about this important historian here: https://www.biography.com/people/carter-g-woodson-9536515 3) Here you can read about the Civil Rights movement: https://www.britannica.com/event/American-civil-rights-movement 4) Would you like to know more about Black Lives Matter? Here is their official website: https://blacklivesmatter.com/ 5) Check out the Black Panther GoFundMe webpage and look at the video on Frederick Joseph: https://www.gofundme.com/cause/black-panther-challenge
COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. Carter G. Woodson believed that African-Americans— (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and Wikipedia)
- did not contribute to American history.
- contributed to American history.
- were not interested in their history.
- only in the US.
- in several countries.
- in North America.
- was a success.
- was very unpopular.
- was superfluous.
- African-American communities.
- Black History Month.
- the Civil Rights movement.
- criticized Black History Month positively.
- indirectly agreed with Woodson.
- criticized the Civil Rights movement.
- the new name for Black History Month.
- a political party.
- a movement that shares Black History Month’s concerns.
- it’s important to protest against injustice.
- racism belongs to the past.
- African-Americans are not the victims of discrimination.
- is a Black History Month event.
- came out during Black History Month.
- was directed by Frederick Joseph.
- it promotes positive African role models.
- it is a blockbuster with a mega-budget.
- it has an African-American director.
- should go to the cinema.
- should contribute to GoFundMe campaigns.
- should be exposed to black fictional role models.