Black History Month: Biden says US 'never fully lived up to' ideal of equality

Commemorative month begins with Tyre Nichols's funeral and battle over African-American education

Signs outside the February 1 memorial service venue for black man Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers. Reuters
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Black History Month began in the US on Wednesday as the country reels from continuing violence by police against members of the black community, and as education of the nation's history with race is contested.

US Vice President Kamala Harris attended the funeral of Tyre Nichols, an unarmed black man who died days after a violent arrest by five Memphis police officers in the Tennessee city.

"This is a family that lost their son and their brother through an act of violence at the hands and the feet of people who had been charged with keeping them safe," Ms Harris told the service.

The country had a record number of killings by US police in 2022.

Also on Wednesday, the College Board made changes to its African-American Studies Advanced Placement course after conservatives challenged it as too "woke" and inaccurate.

Academics criticised the move as an "egregious gutting" of American curriculum that is not reflective of US history.

The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History said the theme for this year's month is "Black resistance".

"As societal and political forces escalate to limit access to, and exercise of, the ballot, eliminate the teaching of black history and work to push us back into the 1890s, we can only rely on our capacity to resist," the organisation said.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said in his national proclamation for the commemorative month that there was more work to do.

"During National Black History Month, we celebrate the legacy of black Americans whose power to lead, to overcome, and to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy has helped our nation become a more fair and just society," Mr Biden said.

"This country was established upon the profound but simple idea that all people are created equal and should be treated equally throughout their lives.

"It is an idea America has never fully lived up to, but it is an idea we have never fully walked away from either."

Updated: February 01, 2023, 11:57 PM