Centering Black Stories as we Commemorate 250 Years of American History

As we close out Black History Month, it is important to acknowledge that Black history is American history. Unearthing and uplifting Black history is something we must do more than one month a year, but year round, and America250 is committed to doing just that.

And as we prepare to commemorate 250 years of American history, our organization will center the tapestry of Black stories and Black voices that have shaped our nation. History will be at the heart of our efforts, including all who call America home.

In this work, America250 will recognize and celebrate the integral contributions of Black communities, in spite of oppression and discrimination, to the American journey. We will honor the Black experience, which enriches every part of our nation’s culture. And we will confront the periods in our history where America has failed to meet the simple promise that all are created equal.

That means telling stories like that of Peter Salem, who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the millions of Black patriots who have fought in every American war since. Or the stories of musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who broke new ground for musical genres like rock and roll, blues, and gospel with a soulful voice and an electric guitar. Or the stories of Black innovators and entrepreneurs like Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker, who pioneered an industry for Black beauty products, building businesses which uplifted countless Black women and created tens of thousands of jobs at a time when Black Wall Street was getting burned to the ground by racists in Tulsa. Or of the generations of Black freedom fighters, who from the earliest slave rebellions to the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement to the current movement to end police violence, never gave up on bending the arc of the moral universe step by step towards justice.

These will be painful conversations, but if we commemorate 250 years of American history, we must reflect on all of our past to look toward the future we want to build. In the coming months and years, we will invite all Americans to engage with our history, examine the work that remains, and share their dreams of a more perfect union.

Rosie Rios
United States Semiquincentennial Commission