BR locals weigh in on what Black History Month means to them

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POSTED: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 7:03pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 10:01pm

Did you know peanut butter was invented by an African-American? What about the wrench? It was re-invented by a black man? These are just a couple of examples of why Black History Month is so important.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the many contributions of African-Americans, and a time for all of us, no matter our skin color or background, to learn. Not just about black history, but about ourselves.

"I think about the simple things that we take for granted," said Brandon Benn, student at Southern University.

Like being able to go to college. Something Benn's grandmother, just two generations before, didn't get a chance to do.

"From her cleaning homes and having to go through the back door and having to keep her words to herself and not being able to express herself," Benn said.

That makes him appreciate where he is today.

"The things people before me had to go through," Benn said. "There's no more, 'Hey you can't come in here.'"

His classmate, Anitra Williams, feels the same way.

"I didn't really appreciate Black History Month growing up in middle school and high school," Williams admitted. "Now that I'm in college, I really do have a greater and a deeper appreciation for black history."

An appreciation she said everyone should have, no matter their race.

"Everybody all over, not just African-American people," Williams said. "We can actually set a month aside about our history. In my mind, we're supposed to know, but we don't know."

"The contribution they actually made affects everyone and not just one section of society will benefit from this information. The entire society will," said Reginald Rackley, professor at Southern University.

That idea is where it all started. Back in the 1920's with Carter G. Woodson. For 50 years, it was just one week, but in the 1970s, it became an entire month.

"He picked February because Abraham Lincoln's birthday was in February, and at that point, people associated Abraham Lincoln for freeing the African slaves," Rackley said.

Now it's much more.

"If we just realize that people are people," Benn said.

There are some black history festivities going on this month.   

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