Black History Month -- Has it outlived its usefulness?

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Actor Morgan Freeman reignited debate over whether Black History Month is necessary when he called the observance "ridiculous" on national television.

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" Freeman asked in an interview broadcast on"60 Minutes" in December."I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Some African Americans agree that the observance belittles black history. But most prominent African Americans and historians say Freeman's thinking is wishful -- the reality is that black history isn't being taught and that trumpeting it, even for the shortest month of the year, is the best alternative.

"Without Black History Month, we wouldn't think about our history at all," said Tony Muhammad, a Nation of Islam minister in Los Angeles who does about 80 speaking engagements about black history from Kwanzaa through February each year."Every culture needs its identity. We should better use the month to tell the truth of our history and what black people have given to the world ... instead of leaving it to the Europeans."

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson picked the second week of February to mark the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and iconic abolitionist, orator and former slave Frederick Douglass.

In 1976, after supporters lobbied federal officials, the week was expanded to the entire month during the nation's bicentennial celebration.

Woodson didn't expect the celebration to last forever.

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