Summary: This message is about why our history is important, regardless of your individual race.
Teach One, Reach One
Why Black History and Your History Is Important
Scriptures: Deut. 6:1-9; Proverbs 29:18
The title of my message this morning is “Teach One, Reach One.”
Moses told the Children of Israel “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” He told them God had commanded that he teach them the statutes that God had commanded them so that when they entered the Promise Land they would not forget them. Keep this in mind as I will come back to it later.
The month of February is designated as Black History month and even though for some it’s just another month, there is a reason that we should pause and reflect on the historical contributions blacks have made not only in America but around the world. From a historical perspective, the precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week." This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14) both of which dates Black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century. From the event's initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation's public schools. The expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month was first proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970. In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, the informal expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government. President Gerald Ford spoke in regards to this, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
This morning I want to impress upon you the importance of understanding your history – whether you are black, white, Native American, Hispanic, etc., you need to know. Why? Because when you understand the history you can better understand your approach to the future. When you understand your past others cannot define it for you and tell you what you should or not know, accept and ultimately believe based on “their” understanding of “your” past. When we know our past and can teach others who share a similar history, teach one, reach one, the past is not forgotten and we have evidence and fuel for the future. To prove this point, I want to give you a few examples.
Raise your hands if you know or have heard of Bass Reeves. How many of you are familiar with the legendary figure the Lone Ranger? Maybe you saw the TV series or you read about him in books. In the TV series the Lone Ranger was portrayed by Clayton Moore, a white male. Tonto, was played by Jay Silverheels, a Canadian of the Mohawk Aboriginal people. In the TV series, the Lone Ranger wore a black mask so that his enemies could not recognize him. In reality this character was modeled after the “real” lone ranger, a black lawman named Bass Reeves. Many aspects of his life were written out of the story, including his ethnicity. The basics however remained the same: a lawman hunting bad guys, accompanied by a Native American, riding on a white horse, and with a silver trademark. Historians of the American West have also, until recently, ignored the fact that this man was African American, a free black man who headed West to find himself less subject to the racist structure of the established Eastern and Southern states. He was credited with arresting more than 3000 felons.
What about Lewis Latimer, how many of you are familiar with Him? How many of you have heard of Thomas Edison? Are you seeing a pattern? In 1874, Lewis Latimer, co-patented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars (U.S. Patent 147,363). In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer, then a draftsman at Bell's patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell's telephone. Latimer received a patent in January 1881 for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons", an improved method for the production of carbon filaments used in lightbulbs. The Edison Electric Light Company in New York City hired Latimer in 1884, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights. Latimer is credited with an improved process for creating a carbon filament at this time, which was an improvement on Thomas Edison's original paper filament, which would burn out quickly. While Edison is credited for inventing the lightbulb, it was actually Latimer invention that got it to work the way Edison envisioned and yet you seldom hear his name. At the time of his death in 1928 he held seven U.S. patents.