As the saying goes, “Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.” A fine line however, determines whether this is truly a good or bad thing. Recent news has produced some striking parallels to the events captivated in American history textbooks, especially those affiliated with the works of notable African Americans. February is the month where we honor these individuals and their achievements, so it’s time to take a closer look at how distant history has become recent truth.
Modern America is full of changing currents, the most prominent being a resistance scene that majorly spiked after the inauguration last month. Despite attempts to overplay the consequences of such assemblies in the media, recent protests boast an impressive record. The Women’s March in the capital for example, according to D.C. Homeland Security Director Christopher Geldart, held no arrests despite a massive crowd of 500,000. Certain outliers subsist, like the UC Berkeley riots in response to speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled visit, however reports claim that this was a rogue group working against the crowd. It’s frankly impossible to deny an influx of successful and peaceful mass representations taking place around the nation. For these substantial groups, it would be conceited to ignore the effects of Martin Luther King Jr.. Not only was he an innovator in rhetoric and civil activism, he was also a pioneer of peaceful resistance. In 1963, just as in 2017, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the nation’s capital to advocate for their rights. Notably the March on Washington in ‘63 was one of the very first in which the media produced extensive coverage, prepared to scrutinize small details. In addition to being known for taking to the streets, King used these gatherings as a way to pressure legislative action, a main component of the Women’s March mission. As he says in the famed Letter from Birmingham Jail, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
Education was in the spotlight for most of the campaign period in the 2016 election and remains a hot senatorial issue. Never has a higher education been valued (to the woes of wallets everywhere) so highly in the American job market. Recently, the schooling world has been shocked by federally prescribed budget cuts and standardization. Similarly, Betsy DeVos’s recent appointment as the Secretary of Education bodes poorly for many in the field. Interestingly, her platform, the privatization of the education sector, is reminiscent of techniques employed by blacks in the years after the Civil War. African Americans were barred from many public institutions forcing a turn towards famous black establishments such as the Tuskegee Institute and Atlanta University formed by Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois respectively. Unfortunately the tactic was villainized by whites in the heat of the prominent Brown v. Board of Ed conflict to avoid desegregated schools. Increasingly ironic is DeVos’s mission to now disestablish the public education front that has slowly integrated over the years and needs desperate federal attention. At a collegiate level, the rising numbers in diversity are progressively immense but still need governmental encouragement. In 1964, at the pinnacle of the Civil Rights movement, there were 306,000 African American college students. Fifty years later there are over 3 million (U.S. Census Bureau). Undoubtedly, this is the mark of the early innovators of historically black colleges but is also maintained by more recent leaders like Marva Collins and even Barack Obama.
Another debated executive decision is the current ban of immigrants from countries with Muslim majorities. The ban is actually one of many instances in which the American government acted in a similar matter regarding Islam. While Thomas Jefferson implicitly wrote religious freedom into the Constitution, opponents of the document in the 1788 North Carolina ratifying convention cited fears that a Muslim or Catholic would one day come to power in America. Soon after, the Naturalization Act of 1790 was passed which worked for over a century to discriminate against Muslim immigrants and others seeking to gain entry to the country on the false basis that they posed a potential threat to American ideals. While it took until World War II for Middle Eastern Muslims to place a stable footing in the United States, the culture had flourished for years in the African American community. Though controversial, civil rights leader Malcolm X helped bring the faith to the limelight and, even before his time, many famed Islamic advocacy groups and sects were formed by other African Americans such as the Moorish Science Temple of America founded by Drew Ali. Today black figures such as Imam Mohamed Magid work to build an understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States to help create a frictionless society and avoid the plight of those oppressed in the past.
This month, educate yourself on the works of people whose thumbprints inscribe the world around you. (Be sure to check out the display the AP United States History students made in the front lobby). You may be surprised to see the impact one person or group of people have had and the thanks to which you owe them. Use this February as not a reminder but an opportunity, and always remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
Collin Sitz, Staff Writer
Senior Collin Sitz is a staff writer for the 2016-17 Colonel. He plays in the Ledyard Marching Band, Jazz band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Orchestra. He also sings in Final Cut. When he’s not in school, he can be found playing intense games of frisbee.