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February 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 1

Black History Month: A Celebration

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It is the month in which we bear witness to the progress, richness and diversity of African-American achievement. During the 1920's an African -American named Carter G. Woodson created and promoted Negro History Week. This period in February was chosen because it included the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, the month-long celebration was implemented, and is a time for Americans to reflect on both the history and teachings of African-Americans whose contributions are still too little known.

Notable African-Americans in History

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) ~ As founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1915), he initiated the systematic study of black Americans. In 1926 he received the Spingarn Medal for notable achievement of a black American. He wrote, The Negro in Our History (1922), the first text book of it's kind.

Fredrick Douglass (1817 - 1895) ~ At the age of 21, Fredrick Douglass escaped slavery in 1838. Soon he was making eloquent speeches describing the horrors of slavery at abolitionist meetings. He was probably the most effective advocate of black emancipation in the 19th century. From 1847-1864, he founded and published his own newspaper, "The North Star". In it he struck out against discrimination and unemployment. During the Civil War Douglass recruited blacks for the union army, and from 1889-91 he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. He wrote three notable memoirs, The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave (1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and Life and Times of Fredrick Douglass (1881).

Althea Gibson (1927 - ) ~ Tennis great Althea Gibson was a woman of many firsts. In 1957, Gibson became the first African-American woman to not only compete, but to win at Wimbledon and Forest Hills. That same year, she was named Woman Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. In 1958, Gibson repeated as Wimbledon and U.S. National Tennis Champion. She was a troubled youth, yet she was able to use her talent for tennis as a rite of passage. More than 30 years later, no African-American woman on the tennis circuit has achieved what Althea Gibson was able to accomplish. Her autobiography is titled, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody (1958).

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) ~ The honorable Thurgood Marshall was a heralded lawyer and Civil Rights leader. He was the Chief counsel of the NAACP. He spent 23 years trying civil rights cases on behalf of blacks, including the historic Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case. In 1967, Marshall was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court by President Johnson, becoming the first African-American ever to sit on the high court.

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