Black History not just African-American History

By Gus Bode

Getahun Benti has spent the better part of the last decade proving Black History Month affects people of all races and ethnicities.

An associate professor of history at SIUC for the past nine years, Benti has offered a unique perspective on Black History month through his comparative slavery, African history and South African history classes.

‘I find that many people do not think African history is a part of black history because black is often equated to mean African-American only,’ said Maria Stuart, a non-declared graduate student who has taken several classes with Benti.


But Stuart said clarification could be found through Benti’s courses. She said his students gain a better understanding of the centuries-old culture stolen from African-Americans. She said these courses are eye-openers for black students about pre-slavery history.

While Benti’s courses focus on the historic struggle for equality, he said the recent election of President Barack Obama has shown him how much society has changed.

He said the election changed his mind on how society in the United States perceives black people.

‘When millions and millions of white people vote for a black man, I think we have left many, many of the misconceptions behind,’ Benti said.

Benti said in retrospect of problems with racism and the election, society has come to its senses.

He said black Americans need a space and time represented for their sake, which is why Black History Month is important. He said the month gives black Americans the opportunity to reflect on the past difficult journey, assess the current situation and map out their future direction.

Michael Brown, a colleague of Benti’s and assistant professor in history, said Benti offers insight in African history, which is one area the department has wanted to strengthen.


‘He is the foundation for, in a lot of ways, the new direction the department has taken in the last several years,’ Brown said.

Brown and Benti have worked together in the past for Black History Month. Last year they worked on a panel and presented information and ideas about the crisis in Darfur. As an extension of Black History Month, they participated in readings to raise money for causes in Darfur.

Benti said he plans on attending events this year for Black History Month.