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Annette John-Hall: Black history is entwined in America's

I know I'm a week early, but I want to get a jump start on my Black History Month column before the floodgates of commercialism open.

It's not that I'm not proud of seeing the accomplishments of African Americans magnified. Especially this year, seeing progress with five black actors nominated for Academy Awards; Barack Obama, the only African American in the U.S. Senate, pondering a presidential run; and two black coaches taking their teams to the Super Bowl.

But every year as we gear up for Black History Month - the shortest month of the year, as some comedians like to point out - I ask the same question: When will black history stop being separated from American history?

During a 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace last year, Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman lashed out at the Black History Month "celebration."

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" Freeman asked incredulously. "I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history!"

As entertaining as the celebratory events are - the plays, music and dance, poetry, readings, food tastings - the focus on celebration is not what Carter G. Woodson envisioned when he launched Negro History Week more than 80 years ago.

Woodson, esteemed historian and author of the groundbreaking book The Miseducation of the Negro, established the week to acknowledge his people's history, a history that had been ignored or erased.

He chose February to honor the birthdays of two men he most associated with attaining freedom for African Americans: President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14).

The son of slaves, Woodson hoped that setting aside seven days to focus on the achievements of African Americans would go a long way in improving race relations. For whites, the education could help thwart prejudices. And for blacks, a knowledge of their own history would not only enlighten, but empower.

If you could read into his mind, Woodson probably would have hoped that Black History Month would not be needed now....
Read entire article at Philadelphia Inquirer