Why It Is Important to Know Your History and The Benefits of History

While some people would insist that the past is better left in the past, some others could argue that knowledge of the past is the key to the future and posterity has proven the latter to be quite true over and over again. History has been explained as a study of the past; a story of who we are, where we come from, and can possibly reveal where we are going.

Over the years these stories and pieces of facts have been preserved and communicated through various media: museums, books, journals, periodicals, music, visual media, and these have indeed gone a long way in keeping people informed. This must continue as well as finding new and innovative ways to preserve and present these pieces of information.

History is vital in ensuring the overall survival of a race within broader society, as explained in the words of Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated…”

African Americans have come a long way: from the dredges of slavery to holding top positions in society, and even the white house. Therefore, it is important that you arm yourself with the knowledge of your origins as well as the sequence of events that has led us as a people to where we are today. After all, this was the reason for the creation of Black History Month, as it could not be left to chance that these stories would be passed down generations without a structured system to guide it.

Maya Angelou’s words: “Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history,” echo Carter Woodson’s hope that in the future there would no longer be a need for a special designation and that the history of African Americans would be fully embedded in the school curriculum because, at the end of the day, black history is a part of the American history and not a separate event. Now while that is yet to happen, it only makes sense that efforts are made towards ensuring that the average African American is well-grounded in the events and contributions of their matriarchs and patriarchs that have shaped the narrative of the United States of America.

African American history is not all about slavery, although slavery had such a significant impact on black history that its effects are still felt to this day. This must be taught in detail and not merely glossed over because it is an “uncomfortable” subject to broach. Walking in circles around difficult subjects only add to the burden of possible misinformation.  Way too much of African American history has been left out or has been rewritten and the future cannot be effectively shaped if the order of events keeps being distorted and that is why accurate representations deserve the best and efficient forms of preservation.

The story of the African American struggle for basic rights such as the right to vote is not only important just for blacks, but for every single person in America because black people in the past have been major contributors of value (even though many of them weren’t given the credit due) to the building of the United States as we know it today. This translates to people respecting and appreciating the African Americans currently living in the United States.

Why is knowing your history important?

  1. Knowledge of your history confers a sense of identity. With history, you learn where you come from, how certain cultures and traditions came to be, how they evolved with time, how certain actions contributed to great societal change and what that means for you in present times.
  2. It helps you understand why certain things are the way they are present. It provides information as to causative factors o actions or inactions. For example, an understanding of slavery, segregation and consequently, the civil rights movement gives some insight into issues of racial insensitivity and intolerance today.
  3. It gives hope to people who have had to bear the brunt of marginalization. Stories of people who despite the hand they had been dealt, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and not only made something of themselves, but also changed the lives of the people in their community are a form of inspiration and tell people that if others could, they can too. In the times we live in, hope is a beautiful thing to have.
  4. With a knowledge of the past, we can learn from mistakes and avoid making them again, and we are less likely to repeat those mistakes. As George Santayana’s very often quoted words put it, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
  5. A knowledge of history impresses on you a sense of social responsibility to build legacies that can be passed from generation to generation. Decisions and policies are made with a consideration of past events and present circumstances, which gives a projection as to what is possible and attainable in the future.
  6. History makes us more rounded individuals in the sense that these stories have both good and bad lessons which can be gathered by the way people treated and interacted with each other. These lessons are useful in helping us see how we can be better humans to each other. With conversations bordering around inclusivity and respecting people’s choices and individuality, we’re beginning to understand that our differences and uniqueness are not grounds for further segregation, but these conversations show us how we can be tolerant of each other and work together to build a better and stronger country.


History helps us examine and look for ways to improve on the labors of our heroes past. We’re able to take an introspective look into our past actions and inactions and look for ways to work through our hurt and victories. This is necessary as we fight more than ever to create a world where racial injustices are forever a thing of the past.