Senator Parker Says African-american History Worth Celebrating

Kevin S. Parker

February 16, 2007

State Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) says February’s Black History onth is a perfect time to recognize the standout individuals whose accomplishments who have contributed to the growing tapestry of African-Americans throughout our country’s history.

“Black history is living history, one that looks forward with as much reverence as it does in looking back.” Senator Parker said. “Every day, more and more African-Americans continue to make history that will inspire <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />America’s future leaders, just as the achievements of those came before me inspired me to enter public service.”

Senator Parker said the first two months of 2007 have already provided its share of new chapters in African-American history. “In January, we witnessed David Paterson being sworn in as the first African-American Lieutenant Governor of New York, and Deval Patrick take office in neighboring Massachusetts as that state’s first black Governor, and only the second black governor anywhere since Reconstruction. In February, we saw Tony Dungy and his Indianapolis Colts defeat Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears in the first ever Super Bowl to feature two African-American head coaches. These are just some examples of how pages are still being written in the annals of black history,” said Senator Parker.

The idea for an annual celebration of African-American History began with Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. As founder of the Association for Afro-American Life and History, Dr. Woodson believed that by recognizing the contributions of the often overlooked African- Americans, all Americans would be reminded of their ethnic roots, and that harmony among the country’s different racial groups would develop through respect and understanding. It was this belief that led him to initiate what was then called Negro History Week more than eight decades ago.

February was chosen as the month to celebrate African American History because it contained the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist, orator, and journalist, and President Abraham Lincoln whose signing of the Emancipation Proclamation paved the way to the dissolution of slavery. In 1976, Black History Week was expanded to include the entire month of February and rechristened as Black History Month.

“At a time when the contributions of many black Americans were not being touted in history books, when the images of black men and women were portrayed by the shameful and ugly stereotypes of the day, Dr. Woodson waged a battle to counter such ignorance with an idea, the notion that African-Americans have done things that they and the country as a whole could be proud of,” said Senator Parker.

Senator Parker also noted that in 1997 The New York State Legislature established the New York State Freedom Trail Project to document and interpret the experiences of African- Americans, abolitionists, and others in New YorkState during the time leading up to the abolishment of slavery in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“I hope people will take the time to look and follow the chronology of the Freedom Trail Project,” the Brooklyn lawmaker said. “It will help bring a true appreciation of the many accomplishments as well as setbacks African-Americans have endured over the years to get to where we are today.”

For more information on the New York State Freedom Trail Project, call Senator Parker’s district office at (718) 629-6401.