Most Americans know that February is Black History Month. What many do not know is that it started in 1926 as Negro History Week under the leadership of the black historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson. The week was selected because it included the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14). At the time, this was a way of lifting up the contributions of African Americans to the history of our country that were largely ignored by nearly all “mainline” sources. Sadly today, Black History Month is too often seen as limited to the African American community or given some wider attention just during February. Yet as we are experiencing in Virginia over the last few days, limiting or ignoring the history of the achievements and traumas of African Americans directly impacts all Americans. Even though Governor Northam advocated policies supported by the vast majority of African Americans in Virginia, his failure to recognize and confess the deep legacy of pain and trauma caused by wearing “black face” is leading to growing legitimate calls for his resignation. The video below this post summarizes the shameful events of the last few days. Yet this is not just about Governor Northam just as the tragedy in Charlottesville in 2017 was not just about denouncing Neo-Nazis. Both are symptoms of a much greater national sickness. Until Black History is recognized and treated as an essential part of American History, our nation will not face the truth of our founding sin of racism (starting in 1619). Yet facing that painful truth is the only path forward to reconciliation. As the acclaimed writer William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.” For individuals, communities, and nations, our hope for forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation comes only by going through the pain rather than avoiding it.