Black History Month…My History

This month represent a time when we celebrate the achievements by Black Americans, and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in United States History. In 1926, 91 years ago, the noted historian, Carter G. Woodson, created the first “Negro History Week”. He wanted to recognize the accomplishments and achievements of those with dark skin. He designated the second week in February — the week in which the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass falls — to honor the contributions of Black Americans to this nation. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized and designated the month of February as “Black History Month.” He called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often-neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history. This is the history of Black History Month. Normally, I would select three or four long ago deceased Black Leaders and honor them. I would probably start by detailing their birthdates, their birthplaces, their childhood development and activities, their education, their professional development, and the work they performed to achieve their accomplishments and contributions. But, not today. Today I am going to talk to you about my history, in my hometown of Clinton, South Carolina. Rather than talking about ancient history I am going to talk about recent history. I was born and reared in Clinton, S. C. in a very segregated community, during a very segregated era. This era was called the “Jim Crow Segregation Era”. (This era started in1877 and ended in the mid 1960s…a total of 88 years) Some of our citizens are very well aware of this era, and some of our younger citizens may not be fully knowledgeable about this era…The Jim Crow Segregation Era. So, let’s talk about it. What Was Jim Crow? Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology. Ferris State University, explains it this way: “Jim Crow was the name of a racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively, in southern and border states, between1877 and the mid 1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid Anti-Black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African-Americans were relegated to the status of second nclass citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of Anti- Black Racism. Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were chosen people. Blacks were cursed to be servants. And, God supported racial segregation. “At every educational level, it buttressed the belief that blacks were innately intellectually and culturally inferior to whites. Pro-segregationist politicians gave eloquent speeches on the great danger of integration. Newspaper and magazine writers routinely referred to blacks as the “N” word, coons, drakes; and worse, their articles reinforced anti-black stereotypes. “Even children games portrayed black as inferior beings. All major societal institutions reflected and supported the oppression of blacks.” I am in complete and total agreement with Dr. Pilgrim. I know he is 100% accurate because I personally witnessed Jim Crow, I personally experienced Jim Crow and I personally lived Jim Crow. Yes, I was born and reared in this community during the Jim Crow Segregation Era. And, this is the environment in which I was reared. This is my history; This is Black History; This is Black History Month. (Lumus Byrd Jr. is a retired businessman and lives in Clinton.)

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