The creation of Negro History Week did not occur in a vacuum. It reflected a continuum of consciousness among Black educators, channeling an intellectual and political tradition long practiced in the private spaces of their classrooms. This class of teachers placed the needs of their students above protocols imposed by white school leaders. …
[T]hese educators insisted on the importance of providing students with cultural armor to repudiate the racial myths reflected in the nation’s laws, social policies, and American curriculum.—Jarvis R. Givens, “The Important Political History of Black History Month”
My one bad experience with race at Hunter College was a year-long American history course. I was the only Negro in the class, and as far as my professor was concerned I did not exist. She was not openly insulting, but she never once suggested that colored people played any role in the nation’s development other than as abject objects of the national controversy over slavery. Her treatment of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction made me shrivel in my seat in the back row, feeling shame and resentment. I knew from my own family history that her presentation was one-sided but was too unsure of myself to challenge her in class. Unable to mount an effective protest against her bias, I performed so indifferently in the course that I got only passing grades in a subject in which I had always excelled. That ordeal, however, spurred me to become a passionate student of Negro history after leaving college.
The experience also led me to take my first tentative steps toward activism.
—Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage, 1987 (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2018), 110