Our United Voice

Black History Should Be Taught All Year, Not Just February

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Delquan Dorsey
Executive Director,
Governor's Office of Minority Empowerment
It was February 1996. I was a graduating senior attending Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Like many of the "Divine Nine" - African American Fraternities and Sororities - we have numerous programs that serve the African-American community. On this particular day, I was excited to participate in one of my favorite fraternity programs.

My brothers and I were passing out “Black History Facts" - dressed to impress in our best suits, shirts, and ties. The Black History Facts included information about famous African-Americans who had made a positive impact in America. On the cover of the literature was Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the "Father of Black History."

Dr. Woodson had created National Negro Week to recognize the contributions of African-Americans to our nation. He chose the week in February that included the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Woodson was a member of Omega Psi Phi, and soon all of the Divine Nine organizations would support the idea by spreading the celebration of black history throughout the country. Eventually the celebration became Black History Month.

Having this connection to Dr. Woodson was very empowering for me. I also wish I had this experience sooner. The reason I attended Central State University was the need to be educated through the lens of African-American achievement. As a youth, this need had been nurtured through two of my neighborhood’s institutions: Bates Memorial Baptist Church and Presbyterian Community Center. They taught me the strong legacy of African-Americans and the importance of education. This nurturing in black history was not as robust in my public school experience, so I chose to attend an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) to gain that learning experience.

Black history is celebrated in February, but it should be taught all year long and in a timeline format like other historic subjects. Teaching black history only in February is like teaching American history only in July because of Independence Day. A great example of this concept is the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington, part of the Fayette County Public Schools. The all-male school is about 90% African-American, with the goal of academic success for the all students. 

Throughout the school year the teachers include African-American and some Hispanic heritage in all subjects, especially history.  During February, the students showcase what they have learned to the public in the form of a play and artistic expression. In addition to a nurturing and rigorous learning process, these students are beginning to show academic success at the same level of the top schools in the state.

One opportunity for students to learn black history is the Martin Luther King, Jr. student essays, visual arts, or poetry contest. The contest is sponsored by Governor Steve Beshear’s Office and the MLK State Commission. Every fall, students from around the state are invited to express what Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement means to them today based on contest criteria. More information: www.ome.ky.gov. Governor Beshear personally takes pride in recognizing the student contest winners at the annual MLK Celebration in Frankfort.

When black history is taught throughout the timeline of American History all students can have the highest quality of education.  Students of all ethnicities are more engaged and appreciative.

Delquan Dorsey is the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Minority Empowerment. Mr. Dorsey is the former Director of Network Organizing for the Network Center for Community Change and the Center for Neighborhoods in Louisville, a previous Policy Advisor for former Jefferson County Commissioner Darryl T. Owens, and the Assistant State Coordinator for the NAACP Voter Empowerment Program. Mr. Dorsey was born and raised in the Smoketown Neighborhood, the heart of inner-city Louisville.

He provides leadership to the African-American community and worships at the Bates Memorial Baptist Church. Some of Mr. Dorsey's past involvement includes being a member of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage Board, Louisville Asset Building Coalition Board of Advisors, Network Center for Community Change Board, St. John's Center Board, Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council Board, Louisville Branch NAACP and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Mr. Dorsey has a BS degree in Business Administration from Central State University, Wilberforce, OH. Mr. Dorsey is married to Shealonda Dorsey and they have 2 sons Delquan, Jr. and Destin and reside in Louisville.

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