Posted on February 3, 2023

Maybe We Do Need a White History Month After All

William Spivey, Level, February 1, 2023

Every February, when Black History Month comes around, like clockwork, a small percentage of people (you know which ones) take umbrage that Black people get a month to celebrate their history, and there is no White History Month to counterbalance it. I used to argue that white history is taught year-round and thus there is no need to dedicate a month to focus on it. But recently, my views have shifted.

I’ve come to a realization: Perhaps we do need a white history month—if not two or three. Truth is, a lot of white history has been left out of the books, and Americans of every color need to be aware. Stay with me, here.

Much of the white history we’ve been taught via public education is sugar-coated or omitted altogether. Let’s start at this country’s nascent days. George Washington, America’s first president, was rumored to have had wooden teeth. That is merely a myth. The truth is, some of the false teeth that comprised his dentures were taken from enslaved people—likely his own. Washington operated like every other enslaver of the time, authorizing beatings to maintain order and tearing apart families long before Donald Trump did the same.


We know Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, most famously Sally Hemings, with whom he had a decades-long relationship as she bore his children. Let’s be clear that there’s no such thing as a consensual relationship between enslaved person and enslaver. Jefferson repeatedly raped her, although historians would never describe it that way. Many historians—and Jefferson’s descendants—denied the lineage of Hemings children {snip}

Abraham Lincoln is credited with freeing enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet he only released the enslaved people in the states that seceded from the Union. He did that for two reasons: to inflict economic pain on the South and to keep France and Britain from siding with the South against the North because of those nations’ newfound aversion to slavery. Lincoln never considered himself an abolitionist. He repeatedly claimed that Black people were not socially equal to white people nor as intelligent. Given his druthers, he’d have sent all the slaves to Liberia or Central America and been rid of them.

There is so much white history purposefully unknown to most Americans that we must dedicate a month or more to its study. Then, perhaps more people would understand that the Electoral College, which gives additional power today to rural states with low populations, was initially intended to protect slave states and ensure more populated ones couldn’t outlaw slavery by the weight of their numbers. We’d know the rationale for the the Three-Fifths Compromise and the provision of the Constitution that allowed for the ending of the International Slave Trade no sooner than 1808. That prohibition had nothing to do with ending slavery; it was about the protectionism of the domestic slave trade, which led to one of the most heinous acts ever perpetrated in the world: slave breeding farms.