The history of African-Americans is the story of the ideal that all men are created equally. It is also the story of how that truth could not be denied and reason would prevail over prejudice. This ideal predates our Founding Fathers and continues to this day. It can be found on every landscape and city of our country. This story has seen wars, conflict, success and growth, even finding its way into the classrooms, colleges and universities where African Americans pursued education. To commemorate that story, the theme for the 2019 African American History Month is “Black Migrations.”
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History announced the theme for Black History Month 2019 is Black Migrations, focusing on the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities.
According to Cyril Josh Barker’s piece in the New York Amsterdam News, the theme highlights migration of Blacks in all forms from the early decades of the 20th century when African-American migration patterns included relocation from farms to cities. Blacks also moved from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West. Focus is also on immigrants from the Caribbean to American cities as well as to migrant labor farms and the emigration of noted African-Americans to Africa and to European cities, such as Paris and London, after the end of World War I and World War II. It is with great pleasure that I join you in marking February as African-American History Month. This is a time to remember and reaffirm our common commitment to justice, equality and opportunity. Those of us serving in this remarkable institution, whether military or civilian, bear a special responsibility on occasions such as this. We are fortunate to serve as both sentinels of the past and scouts for the future.
ASALH officials stated, “Black Migrations equally lends itself to the exploration of the century’s later decades from spatial and social perspectives, with attention to ‘new’ African-Americans because of the burgeoning African and Caribbean population in the U.S.; Northern African-Americans’ return to the South; racial suburbanization; inner-city hyperghettoization; health and environment; civil rights and protest activism; electoral politics; mass incarceration; and dynamic cultural production.”
One of the most prominent examples of Black movement is the Great Migration that occurred between 1916 and 1970 in which 6 million African-Americans moved out of the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest and West. Escaping racial inequality and searching for better opportunity, Blacks took their traditions from states such as Mississippi and South Carolina and migrated to northern cities such as New York, Detroit and Chicago. Specific highlights for this year’s theme include the emergence of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City as a result of Black migration, the Black urbanization of American cities and the impact Black migration has had on American art and culture. When we examine our Nation's history, we discover these and countless other stories that inspire us. They are stories of the triumph of the human spirit, tragic stories of cruelty rooted in ignorance and bigotry, yet stories of everyday people rising above their circumstances and the prejudice of others to build lives of dignity.
As we celebrate African-American History Month, let us commit ourselves to raising awareness and appreciation of African-American history. Let us teach our children, and all Americans, to rise above brutality and bigotry and to be champions of liberty, human dignity and equality, and let us rededicate ourselves to affirming the promise of our Constitution.
Together, we can remain a model for the Nation. Together, we can make the meaning and lessons of this month real, not only for African-Americans, but for all Americans.