So, like all anniversary months or dates, Black History Month is, as a unit in time, fraught. A couple of years ago, Morgan Freeman made the all too apt criticism that the designation seemed petty, noting: “I don’t want a Black history month. Black history is American history.” I would argue the same is true for the even less well celebrated Women’s History Month (March, didn’t you know?) or Native American History Month (that’d be November), and on and on.
I don’t like the segmented approach to our history, of “celebrating” 12, 51, or what used to be 100 percent of the American population (and what will soon again be a majority–call them Hispanic if you like, or Native American, if you want to get into a real fight about genetics and identity). In part because I know, without a doubt, that I fall under most of these categories, and would assuredly fall into the others, were someone to run a DNA analysis. And so would you.
That said, after a long court battle, Eyes on the Prize is being aired this week. I’ve seen it before, and most of the events covered happened before I was born. Still, it never fails to seize me up. Watch it. Rent it. To not know, really know, this part of our history smacks of the ignorance that has beset our country in whole new ways of late. To people under the age of 30, 20, or whatever, it might, if they just catch a glimpse of 30 seconds of B&W newreel seem really old, done, over. It isn’t.
On a related note: It kinda depresses me that smart youngish people seem to be largely ignorant of Terry Southern‘s work, including “Twirling at Ole Miss”—that’d be the school that James Meredith fought to integrate— a great, weird essay on segregation, and his screenwriting on “Dr. Strangelove” and so forth. Read up people. Here’s a link to get you started.