The “heritage month” celebrates African-American contributions to American culture and also serves as a reminder of the tribulations African-Americans have had to endure to obtain the freedoms that America’s forefathers promised its people when “all men are created equal” was written in the Declaration of Independence. African-Americans have been on the forefront of the civil rights fight to uphold this oft-quoted American ideal since their emancipation from slavery in 1865, and their granting of full citizenship in 1868 with the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The first seeds that would grow into Black History Month were planted in 1926 when black historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced that the second week of February would be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because of its proximity to two important birthdays in African-American history: “American Moses” President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and famed orator Frederick Douglass (February 14). Both of these men’s birthdates had been celebrated within the African-American community since its emancipation in the 19th century.