This month we celebrate African American history. The timing, and naming, of this commemoration reflects nearly a century of struggle and accomplishment.
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an educator, historian, and journalist, proclaimed “Negro History Week.” He selected a week in February to recognize the birthdays of two anti-slavery icons—President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, Negro History Week became Black History Month, a time to reflect on African American’s long journey toward freedom, equality and social and economic justice.
This February I urge you to ask yourselves what you can do as an individual, as a social service provider, as a member of a larger community, to further the causes that Black History Month commemorates.
Last month we observed the birthday of a leader who dedicated his life to human rights and the eradication of prejudice and poverty—Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. To him, the battle against want was a peaceful war for the soul of America. In the last days of his life, he was working to eliminate poverty for all Americans, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
And though we have worked hard to erase this scourge from our country, African Americans still feel its sting more sharply. According to the 2010 Census, more than 27 percent of African Americans were living in poverty. More than a third of African American children are poor.
Research confirms that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. But effective public policies that make work pay for low-income parents and that provide quality early care and learning experiences for their children can make a positive difference. That’s what President Obama emphasized in his State of the Union address in January, and that’s what ACF is all about—creating an America that’s built to last for all of its citizens—black or white, rich or poor.
So during this Black History Month, let’s redouble our commitment to live by the values of Dr. Woodson, Frederick Douglass, and Dr. King--compassion, dedication to justice and equal rights, respect for the trials of others, and the exercise, in President Lincoln’s words, of “the better angels of our nature.”