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▣ Black History Month and the Civil War Sesquicentennial Observance

posted by Joseph Certaine on February 16th, 2011 at 3:54 PM

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The 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War will officially begin within the next two months. So far, in communities of color around the country,  there doesn't seem to be be any real coordinated effort to use this opportunity to honor the black abolitionists and black leaders of the anti-slavery movement , male and female. There is no attempt to organize any nationally  coordinated activity around the commemoration of events in our history, that set in motion the coming of Jubilee.    

For several years, preparations have been made in state legislatures, county historical societies and tourism organizations for the onset of this four year commemoration period. Some states have encouraged local jurisdictions to join state-wide sesquicentennial activities or to plan more localized commemorative events that can be promoted state-wide. Very few states have been able to dedicate any resources (monetary or technical) to localized sesquicentennial planning at all. 

Although many local jurisdictions have managed to pull together a tenative schedule of historical events commemorating their role in the Civil War, in most cases those event schedules have not included activities and events planned from the historical perspective of black Americans. That planning should be the responsibility of our own community institutions; our cultural organizations, civil rights organizations, business and economic development organizations, religious institutions and political leadership that can and should be in the forefront of activities in the black community that commemorate the beginning of our march to freedom. If we want American history to be more inclusive, we must be willing to stand and defend the role of black Americans in that history.

If that is not possible, then each one of us can, must and should question why we would be concerned with making American history more inclusive.  We would not be who we are; nor where we are now as black Americans,  if our ancestors had not acted on our behalf.  The events that led to the Underground Railroad and the Emancipation Proclamation didn't just happen. The USCT and 13th 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution didn't just happen.  There were valiant and determined black activists and organizers, some of whom we know many others we don"t,  who put  themselves and their loved ones lives in danger, many paying the ultimate cost,  just so we their descendants, could begin to realize the American dream of freedom, equality and opportunity.  It is up to us to recognize and publically commemorate what we know was done on our behalf 150 years ago, by black Americans for black Americans.

During this Black History Month, 150 years after the war to abolish slavery, black Americans must harness any existing progress that we have made and remind ourselves what it would have been like had our ancestors not stepped forward, to do anything they could do to defeat chattel slavery as an institution.  They set the stage for our ongoing struggle for civil rights and social justice that commenced as a result.  We still have a way to go but not nearly as far, had they not begun the march.  We must celebrate the beginning of the coming of Jubilee, we must commemorate the Sesquicentennial Observance of the American Civil War.   We must let our community know (especially the children) what it took in blood, to be able to stand where we now stand.  If we don't, what is the point of an annual observance of Black History ?  


last edited on February 16th, 2011 at 4:23 PM


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