About History

Posted on February 1, 2011 by


Study Our History, Discover THAT Spirit, Cultivate IT Within!

By Bro. Mxolisi


“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Carter G. Woodson

History – our story – helps us to see how those who went before us responded to the adversities imposed upon them – by nature as well as by human institutions and traditions, in their quest to live up to the fullest potential of the call of humanity radiating within and to pass that call, not the impositions, on to their children and succeeding generations. When we study our history, we find stories of the undying dynamics of self-respect, self-determination and morality asserting themselves in the face of deadly, de-humanizing, immoral forces, to help us when such forces – from whatever sources — seek to diminish our lives.

Our history embodies invaluable episodes and insights that help us to know who we are, from whence we have come, and how we have arrived at our present state of being. And while it tends to bring to the fore those men and women of great excellence, courage and achievements, the greatest impact of our great story comes when we understand that those great individuals were products of the undying dynamics of self-worth within their peers – family and community, near and far; and when it nurtures within us an undying respect for those dynamics and their potentials within ourselves.

“The so-called modern education, with all its defects, however, does others so much more good than it does the Negro, because it has been worked out in conformity to the needs of those who have enslaved and oppressed weaker peoples.”
Carter G. Woodson

It has been said that history is a story about the past that is significant and true; that it seeks to convey the things of the past that are important while eliminating or ignoring those of little or no importance. But the question is, who is it that decides significance and truth, importance and non-importance?


For the greatest portion of this nation’s existence (and even now), the great human drama of African/African American life has been (continues to be) relegated to the sidelines of significance, importance and truth in the hearts and minds of mainstream so-called historians, their publishing houses, the nation’s educational institutions, and the forces that control them – as well as the institutions that they influence. As a result, too many of us, African-descended people, have little or no knowledge of our great story, and diminishing consciousness or respect for the awesome dynamics it embodies.

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Carter G. Woodson

Surely Dr. Woodson would have celebrated the proliferation of Black Studies programs that came to life during and after the 1960’s. Even more, Dr. Woodson would cherish those who clearly understand that public education is limited in what it can and will do, and the crucial importance of taking it upon themselves to give their children and communities the African & African American lessons needed for their inspiration and empowerment. In a letter he sent out in 1927, Dr. Woodson wrote of the Home Study Department that his association had established which would guide students through lessons in economics, social issues, African art, African anthropology and African philosophy, “for the special benefit of those who would like to study the aspects of African civilization which were neglected in the schools in which they were trained.”


This outline of home studies subjects clearly indicates that Black history studies need to go beyond biographies and personalities, as important as they might be. These studies should take us to the philosophical-theological-cultural fires that burned in the hearts and souls of the giants of our history, that would not let them settle for 2nd class mess from internal nor external forces; fires that inspired and fueled them to strive for excellence to the utmost of their GOD-given potentials and their rights (and responsibilities) as members of the human family. These studies should help each of us and our children to find and nurture those fires within ourselves, to find and bring forth contributions of excellence and greatness to make life more beautiful and beneficial than ever it could be without them.


From my perspective, the principles, precepts and practices of the Kwanzaa/Nguzo Saba tradition serve to open the windows to lessons and legacies of African & African American strengths and excellence. From the straw mat, the foundational symbol, that symbolizes the ancient and abiding faith of African people in the reality of GOD as the foundation of all existence, to the candleholder which represents the ancestral giants who grew to become role models of the excellence which that foundation affords, to the seven candles that represent the major principles for personal character development and interpersonal relations:

1.      Unity – growing from the African perception that each of us are sacred sons and daughters of the Creator’s sacred essence who are deserving of the love, compassion and respect that such a familial reality commands. Let’s do all we can to maintain that unity!

2.      Self-determination – growing from the understanding that the Creator who sees, hears and knows all things has given us eyes & ears & minds by which to emulate the divine capacity to evaluate, analyze and decide what ought to be if our greatest good is to be realized.

3.      Collective work & responsibility – knowing and showing beyond lip service that we are our sisters and brothers keepers, and extending ourselves to help one another enjoy the greatest good that Creation has to offer.

4.      Cooperative economics – the unselfish, purposeful, well-planned utilization of resources entrusted unto us (including, especially, money) to provide for the greatest good of the greatest number.

5.      Purpose – growing from the understanding of the unparalleled roles that our African & African American ancestors played in moving humanity from barbarism to civilization, from superstition to science, and being inspired to do likewise in this mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, so-called modern, new world order.

6.      Creativity – understanding that the power GOD used/uses to put the sun in the sky has been placed also in you, by which to do all you can in every way you can to make family, community, nation and world more beautiful and beneficial than ever they could be without your contributions of excellence! Let’s do all we can!

7.      Faith – trusting that the way of GOD — the way of truth, justice and righteousness — is the way that will provide for our greatest good, come what may!

And with its emphatic admonition of our responsibility to teach the children, this Kwanzaa/Nguzo Saba tradition holds serious truths and power for serious, dedicated people. It provides for us significant insights regarding the philosophical-spiritual-cultural fires that burned in the hearts and souls of the ancestral giants and awesome elders who have gone before us. And it gives us a significant blueprint for the igniting of those fires in the hearts and souls of sisters and brothers — young and old – in our families and communities all over the world!

Dig in: Understand and cherish the dynamics of these principles manifesting in and through our worthy ancestors:

Unity/Umoja – Marcus Garvey, Queen Nzinga

Self-Determination/Kujichagulia – Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X

Collective Work & Responsibility/Ujima – Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington

Cooperative Economics/Ujamaa – Madam C.J. Walker, David Walker

Purpose/Nia – Dr. Woodson, Mary Church Terrell

Creativity/Kuumba – Paul Roberson, Nina Simone

Imani – Dr. King, Harriet Tubman

And more, and others!

Most of all, look within: Listen to that “something within” calling you to do likewise, and to always teach the children. And give them the recognition and praise that they need and deserve when they manifest that spirit and power. It’s a 24/7/365 mission of Truth and Beauty.


“A country without a memory is a country of madmen.” ~ George Santayana
Sisters & Brothers, let us not be that “country.”
“History is the self-consciousness of humanity.” ~ Droyson
Let’s do all we can in every way we can to cultivate and proliferate that self-consciousness.



Posted in: History/Culture