Federal marshals escorting 6-year-old Ruby Bridges into William J. Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
African American History represents the perseverance and pride of history within the African diaspora. In America, it’s February, but that is not the case in other parts of the world. Something I find unpleasant is that most people think Black History Month is only celebrated in America. That is simply not the case. For Example, Brazil has the most significant number of people of African descent outside of Africa. They celebrate Black Awareness Day on November 20th. In England, Black History Month is celebrated in October, and in Australia, Black history Month is celebrated in July.
These nations all have their perspective on African history, and their own historical heroes that led to the creation of Black History Month. Unfortunately, most Americans have no idea about them. In the United States, there seems to be a significant generalization of Black History Month because the general census shows that our nation has a tendency to recognize the same people.
Heroes such as Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks are always referenced as pioneers of the civil rights movement. These people are significant in their own right, but they aren’t the be-all-end-all of African American history. There are 50 states within America, meaning that within each state there are influential leaders and organizations that have shaped African American history. The best part is, some of these leaders and organizations are still alive. Today, let’s explore that.
Let us journey to the 1950s, during the brink of the desegregation crisis in New Orleans, Louisiana. The city needed African American students to desegregate all-white schools. During this time, the United States was also struggling with the harsh realities of Jim Crow laws, and the effects the laws had on the racial disparity within the nation. This was all already a lot to handle for the average black individual in the United States, however for a young girl named Ruby Bridges, her entire world was about to change.
She was one of the first students to desegregate William J. Frantz Elementary, and was met with nearly unconquerable hardships. Ruby Bridges was faced with racial discrimination from the moment she got out of the car and approached the school building. The threats and violence were so severe that she and her mother had to be escorted in by the US Marshal Service. Nevertheless, Ruby Bridges and her family did not budge, paving the way for more and more schools to become gradually desegregated.
Now, why would I talk about her struggle to attend school within this blog post? Why would I single her out from the millions of other stories of brave black men and women doing their part to fight against discrimination with the United States? It is very simple… she is still alive. Not only is Ms. Bridges still alive, but she has also successfully co-founded the Leona Tate Foundation of Change. This foundation was co-founded by the famous courageous four, Leona Tate, Ruby Bridges, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost. These women each played a major role in desegregated Mcdonough 19, as well as the aforementioned William Franz Elementary. This foundation’s mission is to “To promote, improve and enhance racial equality through various avenues of education.”
African American history is intertwined and very much a part of American history. You cannot have one without the other. It is important that this nation recognizes and reconciles with its past so that we can create a future where our children can continuously grow to have a better future, paved not only on our backs but on the backs of our ancestors. It is important that we, as a nation, understand the mistakes of our past, to build a brighter future. Yes Black History Month is important, however the understanding of African American History being American history is what will provide our nation its moment of healing and reconciliation.
-Anyx Burd, Longue Vue Educator and Dillard University Student
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