February is Black History Month in the U.S. thanks, in large part, to the efforts of Dr. Carter Woodson, a Black historian who believed that young African Americans were not being taught enough of their own heritage. In February 1924, Dr. Woodson founded “Negro History Week,” which inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures about Black History. Dr. Woodson selected February because it contained the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men whose achievements have helped to advance the causes of African Americans. The weeklong commemoration of Black History gained significant traction and, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, beseeching the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” So, this month, and every month, let us honor:
Shirley Chisolm: the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1969 and the first woman to run for a presidential nomination in 1972. Her slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed,” was a true representation of her commitment to fighting for the American people.
Bayard Rustin: who organized and strategized the March on Washington in 1963. As a gay man with potential ties to communism, he was considered too much of a liability to be on the frontlines of the movement, so he worked tirelessly in the shadows to serve his community, pushing for more jobs and better wages.
Claudette Colvin: the first woman to be detained for resistance in connection with Civil Rights. She was just 15 years old in 1955 when she refused to sit in the back of a bus, citing her constitutional rights, and was subsequently arrested – nine months before Rosa Parks’ historic event sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
Gwendolyn Brooks: the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 and first Black woman to serve as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. She was the poet laureate of the State of Illinois and her works reflected the political and social landscape of the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement. See a list of her iconic poems here: https://www.literaryladiesguide.com/classic-women-authors-poetry/11-iconic-poems-by-gwendolyn-brooks/
Marsha P. Johnson: a Black transwoman and activist who was the forefront of the LGBTQ movement in the 1980s and 1990s. She was a cofounder of STAR, an organization that houses homeless, queer youth, and she fought for equality through the Gay Liberation Front.
Happy Black History Month from the D&I Committee, and may we continue to learn and grown in our understanding of American History.
Additional Resources and Information:
Contribute to the Federal Bar Association’s YLD Black History Month Book Drive here: Amazon Custom Gift List.
Visit the Dr. Carter Woodson Museum in St. Pete.: https://woodsonmuseum.org/.
Attorneys – register for free to attend GEBA’s annual Black History Month Reception on February 28, 2022 here: https://forms.gle/MzaFi84Tf93fAsAX8.