Black History Month: Why we resist

Annual series will focus on Black Resistance.

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of Black History Month stories that explores the role of resistance to oppression in the Black community.

W. Marvin Dulaney, wasn’t surprised when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he was banning a new Advanced Placement course on Black history in that state’s high schools because it was not “historically accurate,” but he was enraged.

Dulaney’s organization, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, had been one of several groups that had helped the College Board come up with the course’s curriculum, which he said offered a comprehensive study of Black culture, history and life in America.

“To blatantly dismiss it was insulting to our culture and a waste of time,” said Dulaney, the president of ASALH. “I was (angry). But this is why we fight. This is why we resist.”

05/11/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Activists Qri Montague, from left, Britt Jones-Chukura, Scotty Smart and Hannah Joy Gebresilassie pose for a portrait in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown community, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. These activists are collectively fighting for Black Lives through their various organizations. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Today, as The The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Black History Month series enters its eighth year, many of the stories you will see this month will adopt ASALH’s 2023 theme of “Black Resistance,” to look at how African Americans have “resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores.”

Perhaps nowhere is that more important than the city of Atlanta, the so-called birthplace of the civil rights movement and former home of luminaries like Martin Luther King Jr., C.T. Vivian, John Lewis and Joseph Lowery.

Civil Rights icons, Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian and John Lewis. AJC File

Credit: AJC File

icon to expand image

Credit: AJC File

But also the epicenter of Black finance and business as the former home of the “richest Negro street in America;” a citadel of Black higher education with the formation of the Atlanta University Center; and today, a cultural mecca that is creating a blueprint in fashion, music and television that the world is following.

Yet for all of the progress that has been made, there is still a need to fight. Atlanta — perhaps because of its civil rights and activists background — has also emerged as one of the country’s leading sites for Black Lives Matter protests, particularly in the wake of the killings of unarmed Black men at the hands of police.

“What has been happening today is a re-emergence of a backlash against Black people,” Dulaney said. “So we have to take into account that this is something that we have always had to do.”

Since at least 1928, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Carter G. Woodson, has provided educational guidance during Black History Month by focusing on a select theme. In 2022, a majority of the stories in the AJC Black History Month series focused on health care and wellness.

Black History: Carter G. Woodson

Dulaney said the themes are chosen years in advance, which makes the timing of this year’s theme even more timely. He said that several things, including a rise in extremism, the recent attacks on voting rights, and the political and cultural arguments against critical race theory are affronts that must be dealt with and talked about.

“I thought we had already won. I thought we wouldn’t have to worry about voting rights anymore, but it has been unbelievable that they are coming up with ways to keep us from voting at our maximum strength,” Dulaney said. “And the CRT thing was deliberately created to stop the teaching of Black history. No one is teaching CRT, yet they throw everything into CRT. How is Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” critical race theory?”

Dan Moore, the founder and president of the Apex Museum, the oldest Black history museum in Atlanta, said that while African Americans have put up a good fight, there is still more to do. His latest book, “The White Male Agenda,” chronicles American society through its “social, economic, and systematic inequalities.”

A youngster looks over a slave notice at the APEX Museum before the start of the Annual Kwanzaa ceremony. Courtesy of Akili-Casundria Ramsess

Credit: Akili-Casundria Ramsess

icon to expand image

Credit: Akili-Casundria Ramsess

“Nothing happens in this country without a white male being involved in it,” said Moore, whose Auburn Avenue-based museum is marking 45 years this year. “We have got to understand that they have done a job on our heads and our thinking process. So the reason we resist is that some of us are waking up and trying to undo what they have done to us. But some of us, unfortunately, are not.”

Using ASALH’s template, this year’s series will explore Black resistance through faith, music, sports, the media, education, politics, and the environment.

Stories will focus on debunking the myth of the docile and happy slave; the lasting influence of Rosa Parks; how Black people embraced Communism as a political option; and how a group of captured Africans rebelled against slavery and “walked back to Africa.”

AJC Sepia Black History Month 2020

icon to expand image

Other pieces that will run every day during the month of February will look at the cultural expressions and how Black people use them to reclaim agency; the radical resistance of Bob Marley and reggae music; how Blacks took control in how they name themselves; and how a photo of a Black man drinking out of a white’s only water fountain changed him and the South.

“We have always had to fight since we have been free — ain’t that something,” Dulaney said. “It seems like it has just been constant. We never get any relief. And we always have to be vigilant that something might happen to take the rights that we have.”