Here’s an event to commemorate the centennial of American involvement in the Great War that might be of interest to those of you in the Knoxville area.
On Thursday, Feb. 23 UT’s Department of History and the Center for the Study of War and Society will co-host the Second Annual Fleming-Morrow Distinguished Lecture in African-American History. Chad L. Williams, Associate Professor and Chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University, will discuss “Torchbearers of Democracy: The History and Legacy of African American Soldiers in World War I.” Like his book of the same name, Williams’s talk will examine the 380,000 black soldiers whose WWI service was part of a larger battle waged both at home and abroad.
The lecture is at 5:30 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Building, Room 210. It’s free to the public, with a book signing to follow.
WaPo has a piece up about the debate within the African-American community over whether to continue observing Black History Month.
One person who wants to scrap the observance altogether is Shukree Hassan Tilghman, who has created a documentary about his campaign to do away with it. The St. Louis Beacon talked to him about the project:
“I really loved it as a kid. I loved the sense of empowerment and learning about all these people who were superheroes like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. But as I got older, I felt like I was just learning about the same thing and I got kind of tired of it,” said Tilghman. “Then I heard Morgan Freeman criticizing Black History Month, and it was a pivotal movement for me because someone else said what I was thinking in public.”
I can understand where Tilghman is coming from. Black History Month has become something like the Athenians’ altar to An Unknown God. In fact, in some ways, the very ubiquity of “Black History Month” celebrations has eroded any real contribution the month might have made. Like Christmas, it’s becoming divorced from its original meaning, and is transforming into something you just do because that’s what we’ve always done. The intention was to get people thinking about black history, but now it’s something we do without thinking.
Maybe instead of a Black History Month, we need some sort of “Black History is American History” Month, where the focus would be on the integral role the African-American presence has played in every stage of American history.
You can learn more about the documentary at the official website. It airs on PBS this month, so check your listings. Looks interesting.