With February as Black History Month, State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) says it’s an opportunity to recognize the many contributions and accomplishments of African Americans throughout our history. "Not only is this a chance to recognize some of the great contributions of African Americans, but it is also a chance to celebrate the diverse history of our country," Senator Hassell-Thompson said.
In honor of her recent passing, Senator Hassell-Thompson singled out Coretta Scott King, wife of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., as an accomplished individual, and one that will be remembered for her own contributions to furthering civil rights for all Americans.
"It is fitting during our celebration of Black History Month to mention Coretta Scott King, who just passed away. Mrs. King kept her husband’s dream of peace alive after his assassination in Tennessee on April 4, 1968. She supported Dr. King throughout the civil rights movement, and fought for more than a decade to have her husband’s birthday be observed as a national holiday," Senator Hassell-Thompson said. "She will be remembered as a civil rights pioneer in her own right, and a role model for women all over the world. Her place in American History as one of the country’s most admired and respected woman is secure."
The idea for an annual celebration of African American History began with Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Dr. Woodson was the founder of the Association for Afro-American Life and History and had initiated what was then referred to as Negro History Week. February was chosen as the month to celebrate African American History because it contains the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist, orator, and journalist, as well as President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation in his steps to end slavery.
Dr. Woodson believed that through 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. Finally, in 1976, this national recognition of African American History was expanded to include the entire month of February.
"Dr. Woodson began something that inspired all Americans to appreciate and embrace the diversity that our country was founded on," said Senator hassell-Thompson. "He was able to show the many contributions African Americans have made to make this country what it is today."
Senator Hassell-Thompson 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 York State during the time leading up to the abolishment of slavery in 1865 with the ratification of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution which ended slavery.
"I hope people will take the time to look and follow the chronology of the Freedom Trail Project. 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," the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker noted.
Individuals interested in learning more about African American History Month may contact Senator Hassell-Thompson’s District office at 718-547-8854 for a detailed brochure.