Editorial: Accomplishments as a nation to celebrate
Origins and development of what we know today as Black History Month are nearly as old as this newspaper, dating back to 1915.
Modern-day change in the observance occurred in 1976 when President Gerald Ford asked Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” and officially designated February.
Even with only 28 days, it is a month alive and packed with history. From the birthdays of Presidents Reagan, Harrison, Lincoln and Washington to unforgettable events, it is a month with remembrances and impact on who we are as a nation.
The theme for this year’s celebration of blacks in our country’s history is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.” The theme, announced by the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History in Washington, D.C., binds two events celebrating anniversaries of 50 and 150 years.
It was in 1863 under the leadership of Lincoln that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. In establishing the second week of February as Negro History Week in 1926, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland tied the celebration to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, arguably the most influential voice of blacks against slavery in the 1800s.
It was in August of 1963 that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice resonated with blacks and whites, speaking at the March on Washington and delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
February is rich in history, from the birth of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 to the arrests of King and Rosa Parks that led to desegregation of buses in 1956, to the sit-in at a Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960.
We echo the words and urging of President Ford throughout the month, and we add in closing those of President Barack Obama within the proclamation he signed last week.
“This dream of equality and fairness has never come easily — but it has always been sustained by the belief that in America, change is possible.”