African-American history is celebrated this month in the US. Schools, public institutions, publications, politicians, television and radio, all join in a national celebration that recognizes the contribution of so many hard-working African Americans without whom the United States wouldn’t be the great nation it is today. This year’s theme “African Americans and the Civil War.”
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, all joined in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. There are significant events, and exhibitions scheduled all February to mark this celebration.
During the Black History Month you can visit various exhibitions, and participate in cultural events, including:
- an exhibition of rare artifacts and artwork that embodies the hardships and triumphs of the African American experience: The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey;
- Family Day Celebration: African American Pioneers in Aviation, where you can some of the original Tuskegee Airmen
- Webcasts like the National Youth Summit: 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, and much more.
It was US President Barack Obama the one who proclaimed February as National African American History Month, in 2010:
“I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2010 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”
But according to the Library of Congress, the Black History Month has its roots into an event known as the Negro History Week, founded by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1925, and celebrated for the first time in February 1926. The event was celebrated during a week in February that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It was an immediate success, with many black history clubs being founded, and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By 1950, the Negro History Week was a central part of African American life. In 1976, the event was extended to a month, and President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The event was somehow lost in the folds of time, till last year, when President Barack Obama decided to revive it, with a proclamation that sounded significantly similar to that of President Ford, but the truth is that the US still have to overcome a great deal of issues to ensure that the same principles of freedom apply for all its citizens:
This month, we recognize the courage and tenacity of so many hard-working Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our Nation. We are heirs to their extraordinary progress. Racial prejudice is no longer the steepest barrier to opportunity for most African Americans, yet substantial obstacles remain in the remnants of past discrimination. Structural inequalities — from disparities in education and health care to the vicious cycle of poverty — still pose enormous hurdles for black communities across America. Overcoming today’s challenges will require the same dedication and sense of urgency that enabled past generations of African Americans to rise above the injustices of their time.