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Many stories still to be told

Posted: February 3, 2011 6:30 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Feb. 1 marked the start of Black History Month in the United States.

And with book reports and projects on the horizon, I’m guessing that hundreds of the county’s students are racing to the public library to snatch up books on Rosa Parks, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson.

But what about the rest of us?

Black History Month is a time to celebrate African American culture, and learn more about its history.

Reading up on Robinson and Parks is fine, but maybe it’s time to expand your knowledge of black history beyond the same few African Americans who are always referenced during this month.

Because, to be frank, I’m tired of people still bringing up the same stories and talking about the same people every February.

So for those of you who are looking to do something more this month, here are a few books and documentaries that are worth checking out:

• “A Lesson Before Dying,” by Ernest Gaines. OK, so this one just happens to be my favorite book. It’s not only a painful story about tension in the lives of African Americans during the 1940s, but also a great inspirational story about personal redemption and how one can find life in the face of death.

• “Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. Not only is Isabel Wilkerson someone whom I admire -- she’s the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in the history of journalism -- but the book that she recently published about the migration of African Americans from the South to the North during the 20th century is a must-read for everyone. The Great Migration is one of the most underreported stories in American history, yet Wilkerson details it beautifully.

• “Eyes on the Prize.” OK, I know this one is old. But it’s one of those classics everyone should see at least once. This documentary does a great job of covering all of the major events of the civil rights movement from 1954 to 1985. And while I’m sure you don’t have 14 hours of spare time to watch the documentary in its entirety, try to check out a few of its episodes.

• “With All Deliberate Speed.” This documentary takes a deeper look at the case of Brown vs. Board of Education. And while I’m sure everyone is familiar with the landmark case, this documentary also explores unsung heroes, as well as the violent reaction against the Brown ruling.

Of course I could go on for days. There’s the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” and W.E.B. Dubois’s book, “Souls of Black Folk.”

There’s the 1972 documentary of Malcolm X and Miles Davis’s studio album, “Kind of Blue.”

African American history is complex, full of intricacies and flaws. It’s full of highs and lows.

There are countless unsung heroes and phenomenons that often went unreported.

Perhaps we should try to spend a little more time this February seeking out new information, and a little less time recycling the same stories.



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