Conservatives: It's Time to Rescue Black History Month From Progressives and Return It to Its Roots | Opinion

According to a Pew Research Center study, 74 percent of Black Americans feel that being Black is very important to how they think about themselves—in stark contrast to the 15 percent of white Americans who see their racial identity as a central point of their existence. It's something I wish more conservatives, especially white conservatives, spent time thinking about, as we head into Black History Month.

It's common in conservative settings these days to mount a strong defense against the Left's constant racialization of American life. One sees in conservatives a concerted effort to put aside racial context and aim for a unifying vision under American nationalism. But sometimes, conservatives can lose sight of the fact that we are more than capable of being proud of being Black just like we're proud of being American.

Our lens of a racialized world doesn't make it worse than theirs; it just makes it different.

I don't believe white conservatives are malicious in wanting to move away from race, despite what the Left may say. The difference stems from the fact that for most of them, race isn't something they need to be consistently mindful of in their day-to-day activities; nor is it something for them to be proud of.

And while no one is actively attempting to rid our calendars of Black History Month, for the past few years, I've noticed among some conservatives a skepticism toward this celebration because it appears that our ideological foes, the woke progressive Left, have parasitically clamped onto it like a tick on a deer's flesh.

black history month

This culture war we've been participating in has some on the Right believing that even acknowledging someone's race is part of a woke strategy to further divide our nation.

Yet for many Black Americans, being Black is important to us. It's something we're proud of. We don't want it to be erased from the conversation. And conservatives insisting that we erase the uniqueness of the Black experience and subsume it under a more generic view of America can feel like purposefully discounting what's important to us.

That's my message to conservatives at the start of this Black History Month: In our zealousness to do the opposite of what the Left is advocating for, let us not create results contrary to what we desire, which is a more inclusive nation, a more inclusive Right.

It's time to rescue Black History Month from the woke Left, a mission doubly important given the Republican roots of the commemoration, which was started as "Negro history week" in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and was purposefully timed to coincide with the birthdays of Republican President Abraham Lincoln, signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Frederick Douglass, a former slave, social reformer and loyal Republican. Fifty years later, the week was expanded to a month-long national observation by Republican President Gerald R. Ford, who believed it was time to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

In other words, Black History Week began as a way of highlighting historically significant Republican figures who contributed to the betterment of Black Americans and was later expanded by a Republican president to decrease the deficiency of education surrounding our accomplishments and contributions.

Yet some of today's Republicans are ready to discard an honorable gesture from their party's past because the progressive Left has infected it with a neo-Marxist framework.

Republicans of the past understood that if we avoid our history, we're doomed to repeat it, and just because we've experienced immense racial progress since 1926, doesn't mean we should be hubristic about being incapable of repeating the immoral actions of our nation's ancestors.

The Black American story is filled with examples of triumphing against the odds, overcoming generational strife, and making tragic moments the impetus for us to change. By disengaging with anything that has "Black" attached to it because it appears "woke," you're allowing these ideologues to reimagine our past and present Black history as an existence of oppression.

Black Americans may vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but it's a mistake to believe that we are all progressive activists who want Black Lives Matter to have an honorable mention in February. Actually, just 3 percent of progressive activists are Black; two-thirds of Black Americans are conservative or moderate.

It's not woke to pay homage to Black historical figures who positively contributed to American society. Conservatives: It's time to embrace Black History Month.

Adam B. Coleman is the author of "Black Victim To Black Victor" and writer on Substack at

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.