During the month of February, the nation celebrates African-American history. Dr. Angelou invites prominent African-American figures Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Tim and Daphne Reid, and Robert Johnson to share their thoughts on celebrating Black History Month.
Historian, author and scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Harvard professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard. He is also the host/executive producer of the PBS series African American Lives. While Dr. Gates says that the creation of Black History Month reflects the triumph of African-American pioneers, such as Dr. Carter G. Woodson, for bringing African-American history into the mainstream public arena, he says he has mixed feelings toward its role in today's world. "I'm glad that the country and indeed the world now honors the contributions of African-Americans," he says. "But on the other hand, there is the danger that we ghettoize our experience to the month of February or relegate it only to February."
Husband and wife Tim and Daphne Reid are both accomplished actors who co-own and operate the film production studio New Millennium Studios. Daphne, best known for her role as Aunt Viv on NBC's hit comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, says she also has mixed emotions toward Black History Month. "I feel it's too short," she says. "I feel it's wonderful that it's pointed, but it shouldn't be necessary. Black history should be taught totally integrated into history because it is American history."
Tim says he tries to play an active role in making every month a celebration of black history by producing a television series on noteworthy people of African descent called American Legacy Television. "I just think it's wonderful to have the opportunity to tell those untold stories," he says. "There are just so many of them."
Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, is a media entrepreneur and businessman who made history when he became the first African-American billionaire. Since selling BET, Robert tells Dr. Angelou he has become the first African-American principal owner of a professional sports team, the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. "I think [I am] an artist who paints the concept of, 'How do you maneuver as an African-American businessman on the landscape of the economic structure in the United States?'" Robert says. "That's what I try to paint and that's what I try to conceive."
Like the sentiments expressed by her guests, Dr. Angelou says she has mixed views on Black History Month. "I'm praying for the time when it won't be necessary—when African-American history is taught along with Asian-American history, along with women's history, along with poor whites' histories," she says. "I long for the time when all human history is taught as one history, because it really is."