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Northern Colorado Africana Studies professor offers new perspective on Black History

By Alexander Armani-Munn
On February 4, 2013

  • Hermon George

The campus community recognized the beginning of Black History Month Thursday with a speech by Hermon George, a professor of Africana Studies, followed by a reception at the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center.

An audience of about 30 people gathered in the Columbine Suite at the University Center to hear George speak about black history in America, a speech offering a compelling alternative to the skewed American history indoctrinated in the masses.

With unadulterated objectivity, George spoke candidly about the shortfalls of the Emancipation Proclamation and the untold bigotry of famous Americans such as William Faulkner, Union General George Custer and Abraham Lincoln - an outspoken separatist prior to the Civil War.

For many people in attendance, George's speech painted a new picture of American history.

"I really like what (George) had to say about Lincoln," said Megan Erlich, a freshman speech pathology major. "I had no idea. It definitely brought a whole new perspective to things."

Erlich wasn't the only one coming away with a new perspective about America's past.

"I had no idea Thomas Jefferson owned slaves," said Ben Brown, an art education major.

In 1926, black historian Carter G. Woodson, along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, designated the second week of February as "Negro History Week." Woodson's hope was that a week of recognition would  eventually end the dichotomy of black history and American history, as people would come to recognize them as one and the same.

In 1976, the federal government formally recognized "Black History Week" and extended it to a full month. It seems the best way for any person to observe Black History Month is by taking the time to learn the true history of race in America.

"From my experience, I wasn't really taught African-American history," said Ty'Ray Thompson, director of the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center. "There were so many African-American people who did a lot of great things, and I didn't know about them."

Throughout George's talk, he emphasized how much black people have shaped the United States over time.

"I think that (Black History Month) has grown to represent the central role that African-Americans played in the founding of this country," he said. "And all the questions associated with that are still important, still needing to be addressed, still deserving of an airing and accounting by the nation."

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 and again 2012 was a historic step toward overcoming racial inequality in America. Still, the road to true equality stretches on.

"If Americans open their eyes, they will see that there is a lot of work to be done," George said. "After all, when the Civil Rights Movement destroyed Jim Crow, it was not one person. It was not Lyndon B. Johnson, it was not Rosa Parks, it was not Dr. King. It took a movement to do that."

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