Last summer I edited Harvey P. Davis’ book, We the People. As an African-American who fought in WWII, his book is a treasure-trove of information and I felt privileged to be part of the process of helping him self-publish his large book of African-American history. I learned more from his rhymes than any high school or college text. If you missed the review, here is the link to his review on my website:
Below are three of his poems in the book. He read them aloud at our recent Creative Writers’ Group ZOOM, so I used them as examples because he chose to read them, using his wonderfully rich voice and expressions that must have made him a great minister.
Black History Month by Harvey P. Davis
The name of the man behind Black History month is not well known.
He is Dr. Carter G. Woodson, somewhat forgotten, as history has shown.
He dedicated his life to educate African-Americans of their achievements
And the contributions their ancestors made in spite of disenfranchisement.
In 1875 Carter was born into a world that to him had little to offer.
He could have remained a sharecropper, a miner, or just a loiterer.
Not happy with his young life, he finished high school in two years.
He earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, through toil and tears.
He worked for a while, but not satisfied, went on to Harvard
and became only the second African-American to earn a PhD – yes, hard!
He believed that African-Americans did not know about their heritage,
But once informed, it would help to improve their personage.
In February 1926, Dr. Woodson sent out this important press release:
He was to establish the first recognized national Negro History Week.
He chose February, the month of the birthdays, where some will pause
For Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both prominent for the cause.
Black History Week was quickly embraced by those in Carter’s crusade,
but he found it difficult to supply all the materials that the demands made.
He realized the study of black history could not be known if not read.
Together with friends he thought on how the knowledge could spread.
The Association of the Study of Negro Life and History was organized.
It gave out reading material for that great need to be satisfied.
Because of the historic dimension of what was now taking place, they realized a week was not enough, so a month they embraced. In 1976, the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History week, a shift to what is now Black History Month – to the world a great gift.
Let us read the words of what two other presidents have pondered.
Gerald Ford in 1976 stated, and I quote, “Seize the opportunity to honor
the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in
every endeavor throughout our history.” My feelings from within.
Ronald Reagan stated, “Understanding the history of black Americans is a
key to understanding the strength of our nation.” A proper stance.
Black History Month is to celebrate African-American accomplishments.
It is difficult to know where to begin and what subjects are salient.
Of these topics, which is most important: politics, education,
religion, business, science, or medicine? All are necessary for our edification.
We cannot forget music, dance, theater, film and various arts —
All of these are extremely important, greater than the sum of the parts.
All of these are important in the development of any great nation.
Every good citizen must participate to that end, and in its creation.
This was true in the development of America, but some were ignored.
The potential of those from the continent of Africa was not explored.
For centuries contributions were made, but if from the minority, not acclaimed. Black History Month is a way to acknowledge and remove that shame.
When like-minded people get together for any uplifting event,
They are amazed that in the end all come through with encouragement.
Black History Month, meant to encourage and support our community,
Can also be the vehicle to promote and nourish our national unity.