Black History Helps Us Appreciate Our Full History


When we know the whole story, we are able to honor those who made (and make) a difference to the good of your life and mine, Guffey says. (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)

My wife and I recently started dating again.

Amid a busy time of job transitions and moving to a new state, we've rediscovered the importance of paying special time with, and attention to, the one you love.

We saw the strong and inspiring movie, "Hidden Figures," on one of our most recent dates.

What a marvelous film that casts its only shadow, for me, in that it is based on American history we all should have known in the first place.

Thanks to the movie, I am privileged now to celebrate the accomplishments of these magnificent women. Thanks to the movie, I was reminded also of why I support Black History Month every February and other efforts to tell the whole story of our nation's history.

I believe we all benefit and can grow more appreciative by an honest telling of our past and our present.

When we know the whole story, we are able to honor those who made (and make) a difference to the good of your life and mine.

We also are given a solemn opportunity to correct the record on behalf of those who suffered because of the shadow side of our history that is hard and often hidden.

When it comes to black history, every American can be inspired by getting to know the lives of Harriet Tubman, Denmark Vesey, Rosa Parks, Vivien Thomas, Bessie Coleman, Benjamin Banneker, Wilma Rudolph, Mathew Henson, Maya Angelou, Charles Drew, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall and John Coltrane - and many others.

Some of us are alive today because of medical pioneers, like Charles Drew and Vivien Thomas. Some of us were inspired to public service and the ministries of reconciliation by the life and sermons of Martin Luther King Jr.

These remarkable people - among a host of others of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds - advanced American ideals of truth, justice, liberty, equality, democracy, unity (within an incredible and potentially extremely creative diversity) and the value of a single human life.

They are among those who, through their personalities, talents and difficulties, showed the way toward these values as potentially aspirational for us all.

Most did it when the ethos of the majority culture was against them. Their perseverance is part of the story of who they are and can embolden us to move forward too - not setting aside our ideals, but carrying on.

Knowing their stories prods me to get busy getting to know the living history that abides in the very real lives of my neighbors.

It puts a human face on people with whom I might even disagree, but getting to know them sincerely makes me want to listen to what makes them who they are as children of God, instead of giving in to knee-jerk responses.

Knowing the whole story makes us better and makes our nation better as we come to know the names and contributions of all Americans of every race and background - "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Robert Guffey is pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia. His writings can also be found on his website, Light Reading.

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Tags: Black History Month, Hidden Figures, Robert Guffey


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