Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 28, 2014

HAMILTON: Our history -- lost, stolen strayed and given away

Niagara Gazette — Our city would be better off not celebrating Black History Month.

That is, if that old adage, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is true.

We supposedly spend the whole month learning about Marking Luther King, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglas Booker T. Washington and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and then we march off into March nearly as ignorant about the elements and essence of our history as what we didn’t know on the previous January 31.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the founders of Bethune-Cookman University, which she started in a very segregated Daytona Florida in 1904, and in an old building with few accoutrements and supplies. Prior to that, Booker T. Washington was working with Hampton Institute and broke away to start the Tuskegee institute. It is now a university, and both Bethune’s and Washington’s work still stand today.

Now, here’s the sad part. Bethune started her work a year prior to the Niagara Movement, the predecessor to the NAACP. Like Bethune, having limited resources but a worthwhile dream, three decades later, black and white citizens in Niagara Falls started the Niagara Community Center and Girls Club.

But 70 years later, educated and resourceful leaders of the Niagara Falls NAACP were riding shotgun when the “Center” closed its doors and remained closed for some seven years.

Sadder still, while only a few people in the community seem to care, fewer still care to do something about it.

PBS ran a very good series on Black History that was called, “Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed.” If they redid that series today, after ‘Strayed”, they would have to add “given away” to the title.

Even worse, even though New York state has the largest black population of any state in the nation, and we don’t have a single historically black college (or) university.

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