Should Churches Celebrate Black History Month?

Black History Month

Black History Month

February is Black History Month. It is a time to reflect on the history of black Americans and to honor the individuals and groups who have worked tirelessly toward racial justice. Yet, in 2023, there is still something about it that does not sit right with some people. Some question why there is not a White History or Asian History Month. Others are not content with Black History “Month” because black history is American history. Should churches celebrate Black History Month?

In 1926, a Harvard historian and African American, named Carter Woodson, declared the second week in February Negro History Week, because Abraham Lincoln’s and Fredrick Douglass’ birthdays were on February 12th and 14th respectively. From the beginning, the purpose of the week was to teach kids about significant moments in black history. Then in 1976 Gerald Ford expanded it to a monthlong celebration and renamed it Black History Month saying:

We should seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

It is imperative to understand that Black history is not just limited to people of African descent. Black history is American history, and the many tragedies and triumphs of Black history that are interwoven into the fabric of the historical context of the American story are worthy of being studied and celebrated by all cultures and people groups.

Should churches celebrate Black History Month? All churches need to embrace and learn from this rich history and contributions made by people of African descent. The Black History season is a sacred time for our churches to reflect, worship and seek to embrace each other’s presence as an expression of gratitude for our life together.

The Black church, which has a deep understanding of God’s sovereignty and the Imago Dei, typically teaches their communities, especially children, about Black history so it could be remembered and celebrated. For most Black people like myself, our dignity often feels brought into question. Mass Media and society have traditionally presented Black people as a threat, and if exposed to that narrative long enough, others start to believe it.

Black History Month shows the world that the church has a better solution for unity. Oftentimes, the world treats Black History Month as propaganda for a diversity agenda. Before the George Floyd murder and the events that surrounded it, Black History Month was often ignored. Now it has become the “it” thing to talk about during the month of February – Although I am grateful for those efforts, celebrating Black History Month should be more than a mention once a year; it is an opportunity to celebrate our diverse and beautiful God and the unifying work of the cross.

God gave us ethnic, cultural, and societal differences, not to compete with one another, but to celebrate His capacity for creation. If it were not for the Black experience in America, we would be missing an essential component of God – particularly a God who hears people who suffer. Without Black history, we miss out on the beauty of understanding what it means to corporately count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds.

Many people, including Christians, like to believe that if they were alive during the 1960s, they would have participated in the civil rights movement. If Christians refuse to acknowledge racism and fight against it today, then it is clear where they would have stood half a century ago too. Therefore, Black History Month needs to be celebrated in every church. Black History Month

What happens when Christians relegate racism mainly to the past? Black people and other people of color continue to suffer. Whether it is insensitivity, ignorance, and obliviousness demonstrated by fellow church members or the dire prospects many black people face in terms of basic professional, educational, and health-related outcomes, a failure to acknowledge racism in its current forms perpetuates inequality. Ultimately, when black people do not feel heard, they leave, even if the exodus is a quiet one.

As headlines of the outside world continue to highlight police brutality in the black community, little has changed inside majority-white churches. Many Black congregants feel that beyond the occasional vague prayer of healing a divided country, or praise for law enforcement, they heard nothing. It has been a scattered exodus — a few here, a few there — and mostly quiet, more in fatigue and heartbreak than outrage. Plenty of multiracial churches continue to thrive and embrace conversations on race continue amid the discomfort.

The Civil Rights Movement was a Christian movement led by pastors and organized in churches. Music as diverse as gospel, blues, and jazz was rooted in spiritual black music at home in the church. This might be controversial, but much of the population tends to forget or overlook the contributions of minorities. But when churches stop to remember how minorities have contributed to the country, it reminds us how much we need each other. America is a stronger country because it is a diverse country.

God gave us our beautiful rich history to display His glory to the world. As we look at the broken parts of history, use that to lament and pray for unity and equality that belongs to all people. The Bible clearly explains that Jesus was crucified for persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. God is not colorblind, and neither should any of his followers be. God is more glorified in being praised by all people than he is by any single nationality or race. EVERY church should celebrate Black History Month. Why? Because black history is OUR history!

Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)


NY Times: A Quiet Exodus
Converge: The story behind Black History Month

Image Credits:

Top Image Courtesy of Isaac Singleton – Flickr Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of GPA Photo Archive – Flickr Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of JaeFrench – Pixabay Creative Commons License

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