Rewriting history: It’s time to recognise the black Americans that fought for their own freedom

Lincoln wasn’t a beacon for the abolitionist movement and slavery didn’t give modern black athletes a genetic competitive edge. Let’s stop crediting white people for black freedom and start remembering who actually fought, and died, for it, writes Ahmed Twaij

Tuesday 05 January 2021 12:46 GMT
Martin Luther King Jr during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, where he gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech
Martin Luther King Jr during the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, where he gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech (Getty)

History is often narrated to us by those in power. Contributions of black Americans to the building of the US have often been swept under the carpet as history books are written by the mainly white individuals clenching influence. Each February a whole month has been dedicated to black history, but for too long black accomplishments have been overlooked, with white Americans taking the credit. Winston Churchill once said: “It will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.” 

In October, standing tall with his chest puffed out and glowing orange under bright studio lights, Donald Trump, in his final presidential debate with Joe Biden, claimed with all seriousness to be the least racist person. Not for the first time, he declared: “Nobody has done more for the black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, possible exception … nobody has done what I’ve done.”

For now, let us brush past the ridiculous notion that Trump is even comparable to Lincoln or the delusionary suggestion that he is anything but a bigoted racist. Even the assumption that Lincoln is the gold standard for black American freedom is inherently racist in itself. Once again, it credits white America for the achievement of black Americans. We should be recognising black Americans for their own push towards freedom and not suggesting that they owe something to white Americans. If anything, the reverse is true.

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