For the past many months, Cable TV's History Channel has been using a rather clever tag line that notes History is made every day.
Historians, academics and anyone with a basic knowledge of what came before can have spirited discussions for hours on end as to what history entails, what parts of it are significant, whether people are thrust into positions that make them noteworthy or whether they affect history because they are noteworthy.
If nothing else, history is the cascade of events that got us to where we are today. Next week, today will be in the past, making it just another element of an ever-evolving and expanding tale. In recent years, for whatever reason, this expansive look into the past has been key to the annual observance of Black History Month. A few weeks back, as part of Black History Month at Deerfield Elementary School in Edgewood, 21 adults from various walks of life showed up to shed a little light on the past for the students.
On hand to describe their various contributions were: one HVAC technician, several people retired from the military and law enforcement, two nurses, Patterson Mill High School's assistant principal, a few Aberdeen Proving Ground employees, a representative of the Harford County Health Department, a local baker and business owner, a parent and entrepreneur, photographer, technology expert and a Harford County Public Schools employee.
In a country where some of those on hand are old enough to remember times when they wouldn't have been allowed to have the jobs they hold today, there is something historically worth paying attention to in such gatherings. From an elementary school text book perspective that focuses on great accomplishments by great people, a baker's contribution to history doesn't amount to much. That a baker of African American heritage is invited to an integrated school in a place that fought integrated schools not that many years ago, however, is a pretty big deal. And that a baker can make a living selling wares to a racially diverse clientele is a pretty important development in the culture of Harford County as compared to what it was 40 or 50 years ago.
This kind of social shift isn't something that's easily seen as it's happening. It has been observed that the Great Migration from southern farmlands to northern cities wasn't something people planned to participate in, but its having occurred is an important part of American history in the 1900s.
The more we look at history from the perspective of different individuals, possibly the more we can come to understand why those individuals made the decisions they did. Possibly, it's time for history lessons all around to take a lesson from the histories of individual accomplishment often highlighted during Black History Month. While it will always be possible to debate the cause and effect relationships of the past, one thing is steadfast: the accomplishments of many individuals are the building blocks of a strong society, and the stories of accomplishments are the building blocks of history.