Blogger Lola Gets has made a feisty argument against Black History Month (or “Ghetto Month,” as she calls it):
“As a professional historian... I don’t think we should just limit the exploration of any one culture to just one month. And yet, we do! And everyone does it!”
I know where Lola’s coming from. It can get kinda corny... like when a local TV station puts up a sepia-toned photo of Harriet Tubman, and that’s that.
Tokenism or no, I’m grateful for the occasional piece of good television in February. Like the Henry Louis Gates special “African American Lives 2,” premiering tonight at 9 o’clock on PBS.
Prof. Gates digs into the genealogical history of celebrities such as Morgan Freeman, Tina Turner, Maya Angelou and Chris Rock. Even brought a tear to Chris’s eye.
I’ll be watching.
UPDATE (02/07/09): This show was deep. I nodded out about halfway through the second hour, but that’s not Skip Gates’s fault; my sleep patterns have been irregular lately.
Anyhoo, “African American Lives 2” reinforces, for me personally, the great power of narrative. Stories are the things we use to make sense of the past. There were some great stories last night.
Like the fact that some of Don Cheadle’s slave ancestors were owned not by whites, but by the Chickasaw Indians. (Yep, Indians owned slaves. Matter fact, the Chickasaw fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War.) Cheadle could hardly put words together when he found that shit out.
Oh... and after slavery was abolished in the South, the Chickasaw Nation said, “Forget dat... we’re keeping our slaves!” And blacks remained slaves in Indian Territory for another 20 years or so... until the U.S. government could negotiate an end to it.
Another great story told last night was the death by electric chair of two of Tom Joyner’s great uncles... an apparent injustice that caused that branch of Joyner’s family to flee South Carolina.
And then there was the unlikely tale of interracial romance in Morgan Freeman’s family tree.
Anybody else watch it? What did you think of it?