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NEWS | Feb. 8, 2016

February celebrates Black History

By MSgt Jamie L. Britt 437th Operations Support Squadron

Observed each February, Black History Month is an annual celebration of African American achievement and a time for recognizing the crucial contributions they made in United States history. Originally organized as a one week celebration period, the observance was formally recognized in 1976 by the U.S. government and expanded to include the entire month.

Though many are unaware, the "Father of Black History" recognition is Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He founded the aforementioned celebration in 1926 and called it "Negro History Week." Dr. Woodson specifically chose the second week in February because it fell between the birthdays of famed orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln.

For this year's theme, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History has selected, Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories. Capturing the importance of specific people and events, the association emphasizes educating American citizens about familiar as well as less known information. For example, the inclusion of the National Mall in Washington, DC may be familiar to most. For it was there in August 1963 that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech to a crowd of over 200,000.

However, there are a myriad of other memorable sites that deserve further investigation. One such location is Kingsley Plantation, situated northeast of Jacksonville, FL, on Fort George Island. It was there that Zephaniah Kingsley, owner of the largest plantation in Florida, fought against federal laws that greatly prohibited activities of slaves and free black people. Even though he owned slaves, Kingsley was a strong believer in treating people according to their abilities, not their color.

Fast-forward nearly a century and a half to the small southern town of Selma, AL, and you're reminded of the heart-wrenching day known as "Bloody Sunday." On March 7, 1965, a group of demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights were stopped by law enforcement officials at the Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge. What ensued was an attack on otherwise peaceful demonstrators and served as a catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act less than five months later by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In the end, it doesn't take much digging to see just how impactful African American men and women have been in the history of this nation. From humble beginnings, to settings as monumental as the White House, the achievements of "Black America" are both awe inspiring and inspirational. Even today, the diversity of our schools, businesses and military serve as a true testament to the unwavering spirit and fortitude of many previous generations; each steadily moving forward over hallowed ground in the pursuit of equal rights for all!