February is Black History Month. It’s an opportunity for Americans to learn about an essential part of our nation’s history that is often overlooked and ignored. Black history is American history—a deep and richly varied chronicle of our nation’s past accomplishments and disappointments. It’s a story full of people who have contributed and helped to create the nation we have today.
Scientists like Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who began practicing as a nurse in 1852 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. She became the first African American woman doctor in 1864 and published one of the first medical books written by an African American.
Architects like Robert Robinson Taylor, who was educated at M.I.T. and is considered to be the first trained and credentialed Black architect in America.
And unsung artisans like James Hemings, a black chef enslaved to Thomas Jefferson. Hemings traveled with Jefferson while the latter served as Minister to France. While training as a chef, Hemings learned to make a French dish of pasta and cheese—now known as our beloved macaroni and cheese.
Education is a major theme of Black History month, not just for African Americans but all Americans. Sadly, we know that there are people in our country who see little value in this knowledge, and actively seek to suppress our access to important historical facts. We cannot let them win. History isn’t always pretty—but truth is always necessary.
As a nation, we must respect our truth and learn from our past. Our shared history shapes and directs our shared future. That’s why the ACLU celebrates Black History Month by continuing the fight to make this education accessible to all Americans.
Director, Racial Justice Program
ACLU of Massachusetts