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Each February, our nation celebrates the heritage, history, and achievements of African Americans as we usher in African American History Month.

In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded what has now become National African American History Month to remember and celebrate African American history. He initially selected the second week of February, as it lands between the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The week eventually became known as African History Month and has been recognized by every U.S. President since 1976.

The theme for African American History Month in 2019 is “Black Migrations,” which highlights the literal migration of millions of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the industrialized North during the Great Migration, as well as the movement of peoples of African descent from poverty during the time of slavery to the national stage over centuries of American life.

This month, we commemorate the achievements of African Americans, many of whom have faced inequality, prejudice, and discrimination in the past. These challenges have proven no match for the resourcefulness, strength, and determination of the African American community, made up of individuals who continue to pursue their own dreams and inspire Americans of all ethnic and social backgrounds.

Today, achievements made by African Americans can found in across American culture, including in sports, politics, literature, science, the arts, and beyond.

  • During the 1936 Olympic Games, Jesse Owens not only became the first African American to win a gold medal, but also became the first American to win four track and field gold medals at the Olympics. African American sports legends like Jesse Owens continue to challenge and inspire us to rise above the obstacles in our midst and fight to achieve our goals.
  • African American civil rights leaders including Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks have made significant and lasting contributions to the fight for freedom and racial equality. Because of their hard-fought victories, today Americans of all nationalities and ethnicities enjoy greater freedoms, equality, and economic and social opportunity.
  • NASA employee and African American mathematician Katherine G. Johnson worked on trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s 1961 Mission Freedom 7, which was America’s first time launching a manned flight into space. In 1962, she prepared calculations of orbital mechanics for a mission John Glenn, who became the first human sent into orbit. The success of this mission underscored a turning point in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in space. For her outstanding work with NASA, President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Today, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management celebrates the achievements of the African American community both to our Federal workforce and to our nation as a whole.

As President Trump has said in his 2019 African American History Month proclamation,

National African American History Month is a call to each and every citizen of our great land to reflect on the cultural, scientific, political, and economic contributions of African Americans, which are woven throughout American society. We remember, learn from, and build on the past, so that, together, we can build a better and more prosperous tomorrow.

You can read the full presidential proclamation here.

This month, I hope you take time to reflect on the achievements and contributions made by African Americans throughout our nation’s history.

I also encourage you to learn more about the life, traditions and culture of African Americans by visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in person or online. Happy National African American History Month!


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