Black history has long been the target of white ire. But more recently, it has found itself subjected to the whims of politically aimless conservatives, who have put it at the top of their hit list in their ridiculous culture wars.
For the next month, The ReidOut Blog will examine America’s turbulent relationship with Black stories by holding Black history’s greatest foes accountable and highlighting the absurdity of the effort to censor the legacies of Black Americans.
“The Reconstruction” series will underscore the feat of Black history’s mere existence, dissect the nation’s affinity for revisionism and look toward the future of storytelling around race in America. We’ll speak with educators, historians, journalists, descendants of Black icons and one of the civil rights movement’s more overlooked figures.
The project will illuminate Black Americans’ struggle just to get our plights and progress on the record and illustrate the ways Black history remains under attack — whether in the classroom or at one of the most-beloved discount stores.
Just days before Black History Month kicked off this year, a white woman complained on X that she’d itched to get out of a Target store because its Black History promotions were “insufferable.” Among these unbearable items was a sign with a little Black girl wearing a shirt that read “Black joy is revolutionary.” Last year, one of the corporation’s employees said a co-worker repeatedly erased Black history facts she’d written on a whiteboard.
In December, a California town literally canceled Black History Month (although, to be fair — if you want to call it that — Women’s History Month and Pride Month were also axed).
But, of course, such tomfoolery isn’t confined to Target, to California or to this era.
America has been in this game of hide-and-seek with Black history for centuries. Incidents like the aforementioned seek to bury or distort it, while activists work to keep it visible — and accurate. They’re up against the inanities of public figures like Ye, who famously said slavery was a choice. And if you let Nikki Haley tell it, acknowledging that it existed at all might as well be, too.
But the problem goes beyond the dazed, confused and in denial when powerful politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis make calculated efforts to dictate which facets of history are accessible to students. DeSantis and his allies have been weaving this apparent contempt for Black history into Florida’s public education system. The state adopted a curriculum that teaches students that chattel slavery had a silver lining: The enslaved were able to pick up a few vocational skills during their violent subjugation. In addition, a new AP African American studies course was banned in Florida high schools.
Florida’s new educational standard is an obvious affront to Black Americans, past and present (at least the ones not appearing in PragerU videos). It’s also disparaging to the resilient legacy of Black history itself.
But this is just the latest wave of historical revisionism and suppression.
In May 1921, a deadly racist massacre took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By the time the riot was over, the city, home to one of the largest Black communities in America, had been destroyed. Yet it wasn’t until a 1996 public inquiry that most Americans learned the massacre happened.
And there’s no better example of America’s disdain for Black legacies than the now-bulletproof Emmett Till memorial marker in Mississippi. The current marker is the fourth one to be installed after the first was stolen, the second was shot at (a total of 317 times) and the third was also shot.
In the series, we’ll be speaking to Emmett Till’s cousin Wheeler Parker, as well as to the lawyer for some of the Tulsa survivors, Damario Solomon-Simmons. If any living figures can speak to the contempt Black history seems to inspire, it’s them.
America has struggled for centuries to tell itself the truth about its history and has tried to thwart the countless efforts to do so. Here are a few more rectifications for good measure.