"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.
These are the poignant words of Carter G. Woodson, who founded Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson created an additional bit of Black history in his own right -- he entered high school at the age of 20, graduated in two years and went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Noting the dearth of information about African Americans in the history books during his academic pursuits, Woodson set out to correct the record by establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, and subsequently, the Journal of Negro History in 1916. His efforts culminated with the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926 as he raised national awareness of the contributions made by African Americans throughout the country's history.
As we observe Black History during the month of February and celebrate the many contributions of African Americans to this great nation, we, in truth, celebrate the richness of American history long incomplete by its omission of Black achievement, perseverance and triumph over obstacles virtually unimaginable by today's standards.
In telling the stories of African American inventors, politicians, scientists, industrialists, musicians and others, we also tell the stories of the high and low points of American history and of people of good will who aided African Americans in their struggles to overcome. Remembering our past helps to inform our future as a nation.
There is much to celebrate in this month of remembrance and reflection. Enormous progress has characterized the African American experience over the centuries, with much remaining to be done as Black History continues to be written by daily events and accomplishments. Hurricane Katrina is a stark reminder of this fact, as are the modern day accomplishments of Patricia Bath, whose pioneering work in ophthalmology has revolutionized laser eye surgery with her invention of the Laserphaco Probe.
Also consider Mark Dean, IBM engineer, who has been one of the masterminds behind IBM's computer technology for more than two decades. He holds 20 patents, including three of IBM's original nine PC patents. He and a colleague created the ISA systems bus, an interface that allows multiple devices, such as a modem and printer, to be connected to a personal computer. The ISA is used in every computer built today.
These are but two examples of contemporary African American achievement. You can learn more about Black History throughout the month of February as major television and cable networks feature special programming.
Television Programming for Black History Month
Feb. 20: "Little Richard." NBC original movie stars Leon, Garrett Morris and Carl Lumbly in a biographical account of the rock 'n' roll icon. Robert Townsend directs.
Feb. 16: "Great Performances" presents "Aida's Brothers and Sisters: Black Voices in Opera." Documentary salutes African American opera stars, including Sissieretta Jones, an ex-slave who performed for four U.S. Presidents.
Feb. 16: "Nadro." Documentary about the African artist.
Feb. 17: "Ellis Marsalis: Jazz is Spoken Here." This special profiles jazz great Wynton's father, who also happens to be a pianist, teacher and role model.
Feb. 18: "I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African- American Arts." Parts 3 and 4 take a look at racial barriers being broken.
Feb. 21: "A Walk through Harlem with David Hartman and Historian Barry Lewis." An exploration of New York's most famous neighborhood.
Feb. 21: Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game." A dramatic adaptation of Ellison's short story.
Feb. 23: "Black Women On: The Light, Dark Thang." This documentary explores racial prejudice in the Black community from the female perspective.
Feb. 24: "Great Performances" presents "Dance in America: A Hymn for Alvin Ailey." Dancer/choreographer Judith Jamison and performance Artist Anna Deavere Smith pay tribute to Ailey.
Feb. 25: "I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts." The last two parts profile African-American artists from the 1960s to the present.
Feb. 27: "All God's Children." A documentary on the alienation of the gay community.
Feb. 27: The Kennedy Center Presents: "A Tribute to Muddy Waters, King of the Blues." Billy Dee Williams hosts; Bo Diddley, Phoebe Snow, Peter Wolf and others perform.
Feb. 28: "The America Experience" presents "John Brown's Holy War." Joe Morton narrates this documentary about Brown's crusade against slavery.
The Black Entertainment Television Channel celebrates Black History Month with "A Century Rich in Color," a special collection of films, premieres and original documentaries. Coretta Scott King and her daughter, director Yolanda King, will serve as guest hosts. Check local listings for full schedule and times.
E! ENTERTAINMENT Feb. 21: E! Offers profiles and biographies on some of the most talented faces in show business. "Uncut," a series of personal interviews, will feature the stories of personalities like Morgan Freeman, Wesley Snipes, Debbie Allen and Quincy Jones. "Celebrity Profile" will feature Della Reese, Danny Glover and others. "Mysteries & Scandals: Paul Robeson" reveals how the American government destroyed this actor's reputation after he began fighting for the rights of African American people.
Feb. 20: "Return to Harlem." Ossie Davis narrates this special, which examines the new number of African Americans who are creating a Harlem renaissance.
Feb. 16: "The Black Cowboys." Danny Glover hosts this look at African American cowboys.
Feb. 18: "The Underground Railroad -- Part II"
Feb. 19: "The Talented Tenth." A look at five prominent African American families.
Feb. 19: "Shaka Zulu." Acclaimed miniseries.
Feb. 20: "The African Burial Ground: People and Politics." Part 3.
Feb. 22: World premiere. "20th Century with Mike Wallace: South Africa: Free at Last." A look at the history of South Africa.
Feb. 23: World premiere. "History's Mysteries: Discharged Without Honor -- Brownsville." A look at the 1906 discharge of an entire Black infantry unit after a midnight raid on Brownsville, Tex.
Feb. 26: "Black Georgetown Remembered," and the world premiere of "Murder in Memphis: Unanswered Questions," a look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.
Feb. 27: "The African Burial Ground: An Open Window." Part 4.
Feb. 29: "Frederick Douglass," and "Royal Federal Blues," the story of the United States Colored Troops.
Showtime presents a number of original films as well as four short films by up-and-coming African American film makers, plus a theatrical film by poet Maya Angelou.
Feb. 20: "The Wishing Tree." Alfre Woodard stars as a lawyer who returns to her hometown and reconnects with her roots. Blair Underwood co-stars.
Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.: "Down in the Delta." Maya Angelou directs Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Esther Rolle and Wesley Snipes.
TBS offers a month full of movies and an awards show pegged to Black History Month. Highlights include:
Feb. 22: "Ghosts of Mississippi." Alec Baldwin and Whoopi Goldberg star in the story of the trials dealing with the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
Feb. 23: "To Kill a Mockingbird." Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall star in this classic about racial prejudice in 1930s Alabama.
Feb. 25: "In the Heat of the Night." Sidney Poitier stars as a Philadelphia homicide expert wrongly accused of murder in Mississippi.
Feb. 26: "Glory." Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington star in this story of America's first unit of Black soldiers.
Feb. 26: "The Trumpet Awards." Debbie Allen and Kweisi Mfume host this honors show, which salutes African American achievements in diverse fields. Bryant Gumbel and Smokey Robinson are among the honorees.
Turner Classic Movies celebrates Black History Month every Sunday in February. Some highlights:
Feb. 20: "The Long Ships," starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier; and "The Defiant Ones," starring Tony Curtis and Poitier.
Feb. 21: "King Solomon's Mines," starring Paul Robeson.
Feb. 27: "Princess Tam Tam," starring Josephine Baker.
Feb. 28: "The Jackie Robinson Story," starring Jackie Robinson and Ruby Dee.
Feb. 16: "Whatever Happened to Michael Ray?" The true account of the rise and fall of basketball great Michael Ray Richardson.
Feb. 27: "Freedom Song." A TNT original movie stars Danny Glover and Sean Daniel.