February is Black History Month. Schools all across America focus on the struggles, achievements, and inspirational leaders in the African-American community, past and present. Town halls, community centers, churches and public libraries follow suit, putting up posters, book displays, and informational brochures for citizens to examine during this time of reflection. Christians of all ethnic backgrounds should study black history in America, and not just one month out of the year. Churches, and the men and women inside those sanctuaries, played a huge role in ending slavery, pushing for civil rights legislation, and bringing to light of day the atrocities of slavery, discrimination, and segregation.
Christians Jermain Loguen, William Still, Charles G. Finney, Phyllis Wheatley, and Richard Allen were all instrumental in making arguments against slavery. And while it is true that many houses of worship in America believed that slavery was not something that needed to be removed from society, it was the steadfastness of Christians committed to justice and equality for all of God’s creation that created a groundswell of support to end slavery. Christian Americans who put their lives on the line to make our nation and the world a better place to live were surely thinking of Proverbs 14:34 (NIV), “Righteousness exalts a nation.”
From Harriet Tubman’s amazing escape in 1849 to the Civil War that almost tore our nation apart to today’s struggle for African-Americans to find the same jobs and opportunities as Caucasians, Black history is American history. American men and women of faith helped make the Underground Railroad a success. Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863: “And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.” Lincoln wanted to do what was right in God’s eyes, not men’s.
Nations in the pursuit of righting wrongs, realigning perspectives of their fellowman, and devoting their resources to seeking favor in God’s righteous character have always been closer to that shining light on a hill that other nations cannot ignore. Black History Month should be a month of reflection for all Americans because we can learn so much about struggle, hope, and perseverance. Make February a month of commitment; seek out stories you’ve never heard, people you’ve never met, and times you’ve never lived. Be vigilant and awake with knowledge of past injustices because it is the only way we’ll ever prevent future atrocities.