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EDITORIAL: Black History Month

The York Dispatch, York Dispatch

"They are hidden figures no more."

Actress Taraji P. Henson used those words in accepting the Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture on Sunday.

Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae star in "Hidden Figures," the story of African-American women who were essential in NASA's space race in the 1960s.

Their story was hidden for 50 years, which is unfortunately common for many historical black figures.

February is Black History Month, a time set aside to recognize the accomplishments of African-Americans. People such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the subjects of "Hidden Figures."

And the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black squadron from World War II. And jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. And artist Robert Blackburn.

And of course the leaders of the civil rights movement, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Martin Luther King Jr.

From left, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Kirsten Dunst accept the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture for "Hidden Figures" at Sunday's 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

In fact, black Americans have been part of the country's history since the beginning, when Crispus Attucks became the first casualty of the American Revolution during the Boston massacre in 1770.

For so many decades, the contributions of African-Americans were hidden behind a wall of prejudice and hate. The men and women whose stories are weaved into and enrich the American story often didn't receive credit for their work or returned from protecting their country to find themselves once again the object of prejudice and hate.

So shoving all the black history into one month, especially the shortest month of the year, seems like an oversimplification of the role black Americans have played.

'Hidden Figures' shocks Screen Actors Guild Awards

Black history is American history. It's past time for us to recognize that.

But as long as there is prejudice, there needs to be a month set aside to dig deeper into black history. 

For more about Black History Month, visit And keep checking The York Dispatch all month for events celebrating the contributions of African-Americans.

"Girl in Red," by Robert Blackburn.