U.S. Black History Month, February 2012

“This year's theme, "Black Women in American Culture and History," invites us to pay special tribute to the role African American women have played in shaping the character of our Nation -- often in the face of both racial and gender discrimination.  As courageous visionaries who led the fight to end slavery and tenacious activists who fought to expand basic civil rights to all Americans, African American women have long served as champions of social and political change.  And from the literary giants who gave voice to their communities to the artists whose harmonies and brush strokes captured hardships and aspirations, African American women have forever enriched our cultural heritage.  Today, we stand on the shoulders of countless African American women who shattered glass ceilings and advanced our common goals.  In recognition of their legacy, let us honor their heroic and historic acts for years to come.”
Presidential Proclamation -- National African American History Month, 2012

Each February, Black History Month honors the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over the devastating obstacles of slavery, prejudice, poverty — as well as their contributions to the nation’s cultural and political life. The first celebration occurred on February 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded into a full month-long celebration of Black History.

The theme for this year’s Black History Month, “The History of Black Economic Empowerment,” recognizes the lives of successful black men and women, including Madame C.J. Walker, founder of a beauty empire in the early 20th century and the first African-American woman to become a millionaire.


President Obama gave a remarks in Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 17, 2010Presidential Proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day - "The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged our Nation to recognize that our individual liberty relies upon our common equality. In communities marred by division and injustice, the movement he built from the ground up forced open doors to negotiation. The strength of his leadership was matched only by the power of his words, which still call on us to perfect those sacred ideals enshrined in our founding documents."

Black History Month Honors Legacy of Struggle and Triumph - Each February, Black History Month honors the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over the devastating obstacles of slavery, prejudice, poverty — as well as their contributions to the nation’s cultural and political life.

-01/31/12  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration; Deputy Secretary William J. Burns; Washington, DC


Beyond Dr. King - This living book profiles a less recognized African American figure of importance, introducing figures like Claudette Colvin (the 15 year old African American woman who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus months before Rosa Parks did the same thing), Bishop Richard Allen, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Read stories of African American achievement and check back on the first day of each month to read new profiles of inspiring African Americans.


Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator in 1870African American Firsts - Learn more about the African-American firsts at the U.S. Department of State.

African Americans of the Senate - The role of African Americans in Senate history is not limited to those who served in elected office. In fact, one of the earliest and most enduring roles of African Americans in Senate history came with the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Facts for Features: Black History Month - Collections of statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau's demographic and economic subject area intended to commemorate Black History Month.



Cover page of Free at Last: The U.S. Civil Rights MovementFree At Last - The U.S. Civil Rights Movement - This book recounts how African-American slaves and their descendants struggled to win — both in law and in practice — the civil rights enjoyed by other Americans. It is a story of dignified persistence and struggle, a story that produced great heroes and heroines, and one that ultimately succeeded by forcing Americans to confront squarely the shameful gap between their universal principles of equality and justice and the inequality, injustice, and oppression faced by millions of their fellow citizens.

Justice for All: The Legacy of Thurgood Marshall - Thurgood Marshall stands as one of the great American heroes of the 20th century: He was the attorney who ended legal segregation in the United States with his victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case, and the U.S. Supreme Court justice who championed expanded rights for every individual American -- minorities, women, and immigrants, among many others.


Oprah Winfrey with teenage girls. (AP images)Black Economic Empowerment in America - Economic empowerment is rooted in education, opportunity and self-help. Education must include financial literacy, development of marketable skills, and knowledge about basic rights. This photo gallery chronicles some of the historical and contemporary struggles and success stories of economic empowerment for black Americans in the United States.

Nonviolent Protest: Following Martin Luther King Jr. - The right to assemble and peacefully express one’s views is a fundamental pillar of democracy. The most famous American exponent of nonviolent protest was Martin Luther King Jr., who led the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Until the civil rights movement, most African Americans could get a college education only from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These institutions became the primary source of community leaders and centers of African-American intellectual life.

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement - During the early 20th century in the American South, racial segregation was the norm, and blacks had limited opportunities. But the 1950s brought forces to bear that would launch a powerful civil rights campaign.

Making Their Mark: Black Women Leaders

eJournal USA
U.S. Department of State
February 2012

Fannie Lou Hamer speaking to crowd (AP Images)This issue of eJournal USA profiles African-American women of the 20th and 21st centuries who have made significant contributions to many spheres of American life. It also offers insights into how earlier generations of African-American women serve as touchstones for the present generation.

The list of women featured here, while not comprehensive, is wide-ranging. It includes women who have devoted their talents and energies to business, civil rights, politics, academia and mass media. Each in her way has affirmed the American Dream not only for African Americans, but for women and men of all ethnicities.




Table of Contents

Making Their Mark: Black Women Leaders
Madam C.J. Walker: Business Savvy to Philanthropy
by A’Lelia Bundles
Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Fighting and Writing for Justice
by Lee D. Baker
Zora Neal Hurston: Literary Legend
by Valerie Boyd
Dorothy Irene Height: Civil Rights Activist
by Holly Cowan Shulman
Claudette Colvin: The First to Keep Her Seat
by Phillip Hoose

Making Their Mark: Profiles of Contemporary African-American Women
Elizabeth Alexander
Mary McLeod Bethune
Ursula Burns
Shirley Chisholm
Johnnetta Cole
Cathy Hughes
Mae Jemison
Lynn Nottage
Condoleezza Rice
Susan E. Rice
Leah Ward Sears