WASHINGTON, DCWith Black History Month over, U.S. citizens are putting aside thoughts of Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver to resume the traditional observation of White History Year.
White History Year, which runs annually from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, with a 28-day break for Black History Month in February, is dedicated to the recognition of European-Americans' contributions to American politics and culture.
"Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. are all well and good," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at a banquet celebrating the arrival of White History Year, "but now is the time to reflect on the accomplishments of such whites as Babe Ruth, Alexander Graham Bell, and Presidents Washington through Bush. Let's use these next 11 months to remember the other American history."
"Whites have contributed so much to this country," Frist continued. "Did you, for example, know that a white man, Jonas Salk, discovered the cure for polio? It's true."
From now until Feb. 1, 2004, educators will eschew discussions of Rosa Parks in favor of Andrew Carnegie, Neil Armstrong, and Tim Allen. Schools nationwide will shelve African-American history pamphlets in favor of such Caucasiacentric materials as the Macmillan & Rowe American History Textbook New Revised Standard Edition and Encyclopedia Britannica.
Scholars say there is a remarkable wealth of documented white history to explore.
"There's so much more white history out there than you might imagine," said Dr. James Corman, a Princeton University history professor. "America's publishing houses, newspapers, movie studios, magazines, and radio stations have kept remarkably thorough records of white Americans' accomplishments."
White History Year will also be commemorated on television, with various networks airing special programming recognizing whites' contributions to society. The History Channel will set aside the Tuskegee Airmen documentaries that have dominated its schedule throughout February, instead presenting programs on Chuck Yeager, the white man who broke the sound barrier, and Paul Revere, a key white figure in the nation's fight for independence from England. A&E's Biography will spotlight such white luminaries as Johnny Unitas, Mae West, and Edward R. Murrow. Between prime-time programs, NBC will air White History Minute segments hosted by white actress Bernadette Peters.
Americans of every color will set aside their differences to celebrate White History Year.
"I think it's good to give people a closer look at a culture they usually don't even think about," said Gary, IN, realtor Willie Anderson, a respected member of the city's black community. "I mean, it's right in front of you every day. It's such a huge part of your life. You're surrounded by it from the day you're born until the day you die, so it's easy to take for granted that you already know just about everything there is to know about it."
Added Anderson: "Do you realize that Henry Ford, a white man, invented the 'assembly line,' a mass-production technique that revolutionized industry around the world? They had something about it on TV again last night."