Carter Woodson, a founder of the observance of Black History Month, was a man who made a difference, said Dr. Brian Farmer, a social sciences professor.
According to Farmer, Woodson attended a national celebration in Washington, D.C., in 1915, 50 years after slavery had ended in 1865, to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans during the past five decades.
Farmer said Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History that same year. Woodson started Negro History Week in February because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas’ birthdays fall in that month.
Carter died in 1950 after spending 35 years trying to get colleges to recognize Black History Week. It was not until 1976 that the ASALH adopted Black History Month. The same year, President Gerald Ford spoke on the observance of Black History Month.
“Every president since Gerald Ford has done the same thing,” Farmer said.
Farmer said when he was a child in school, students were hardly taught about African-American people in history.
“Due to the efforts of these people, we have, in history departments all across America in universities, restored this history to its proper place,” he said. “There was a time it was just not part of the curriculum.”
To Denisha Kranthoven, a mass communication major, the observance of Black History Month allows people to remember a time when things were unfair not only for African Americans but for all people of color.
“(It’s) to remember those who made a big difference to our lives today, because without those people we would not be where we are today,” Kranthoven said.
Kranthoven is a 19-year-old from Borger who moved to Amarillo in the third grade. She said one difference she noticed between the two towns was the amount of diversity.
“In smaller towns, your role is basically your role,” Kranthoven said. “What your parents and your family does, that’s kind of what you are going to do.”
Kranthoven said that after moving to Amarillo, she was told she could be whomever she wanted to be and go to school for whatever she wanted to do.
She said she looks up to her parents because her mother continues to stay positive despite being sick, and her father has been by her younger sister’s and her side during that time.
Her father, who is from Suriname, South America, came to the United States through scholarships.
“None of his family live here besides us,” she said. “He started his business, and he’s doing really good.”
Kranthoven said because of her appearance, there are times she has been stereotyped by people she first meets. They believe, she said, they know everything from her character to what music she listens to.
“I think you really have to get to know a person before you can stick that type of label on someone,” she said.
Education, she said, is important to people who are determined to be more than their stereotype. She said that if people were open to experience different cultures and customs, they would be able to understand things from different perspectives.
Kranthoven said people from all backgrounds should embrace their culture and should not be ashamed of where they come from.
“Those things should be celebrated,” she said. “Be proud of where you’re from.”
David Lovejoy, 46, was born in Amarillo. He was in the U.S. Army, where he served as an Army Ranger. He has a son who is a senior at West Point. He worked in sales most of his life and also at the Thomas E. Creek V.A. Medical Center. In summer 2012, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery.
Lovejoy, who has had an interest in journalism and music since he was a child, had to change his career path, so he returned to college as a mass communication major.
“I was taught at a young age that if you are not informed or you let someone else inform you, then you have no control of your situation,” he said.
Lovejoy said among the men he looks up to in history, such as John Brown, Frederick Douglas and Malcolm X, his biggest hero is his father, who quit school at the age of 12 to support his brothers and sister by working in a cotton field. His father later would work on the Santa Fe railroad for multiple years.
“His example of being a man has always been a shining example,” he said.
Lovejoy does not believe in Black History Month because, he said, American history includes all history. He said the observation date was necessary in its time but that people now should be recognized in the day-to-day life of everyone.
“It’s this idea that I only have my heritage. Well now, America is the melting pot. Our history is all history,” he said.
Lovejoy said it is everyone’s responsibility to know their roots He said knowing one’s history should be something that starts at home.
He addressed the political correctness issue by recalling a school field trip with his son, who was in the sixth grade. A young black girl on the bus, he said, used the N-word freely and often.
He later turned turned to her and asked how she would feel if a Caucasian boy said that to her. She reacted to his comment, and he said he told her if she was offended by it, she should stop using it so freely.
Lovejoy does not believe any word should be banned, but he said if people are going to say certain words, they should take responsibility and know they might face repercussions.