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Congresswoman Waters Recognizes Black History Month

July 15, 2009
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) made the following statement in support of H. Res. 83, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed unanimously yesterday:

I rise in strong support of House Resolution 83, Recognizing the Significance of Black History Month, and am proud to be an original cosponsor of this measure.

Some have asked if our country still needs to formally recognize Black History Month.  My answer is, "Absolutely, yes!"    Just as students are taught about American and World History throughout their school years, the contributions of African American to this great nation and to the world still need to be taught and re-taught.  In fact, the recent and historic inauguration of President Barack Obama as our country's first African American President of the United States of America underscores the continued need to celebrate Black History Month.  

While most Americans now know President Obama's story, too many Americans still do not know or understand that he stands on the shoulders of many brave African American men and women.   In fact, just a few years ago, most of my colleagues here in the House had never heard of a young leader named Barack Obama.   Black History Month gives us a wonderful opportunity to share a better understanding of the stories of hardship and inspiration of our past and present leaders with new generations of Americans.

While many people may have heard about Malcolm X or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks, far too many young people don't know about Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to serve in this House of Representatives and to run for President of the United States.   Too many young people still have no idea about the work of Fannie Lou Hamer to ensure that African Americans in Mississippi could actually exercise the right to vote and not just point to the words printed on paper.  

We have come an incredibly long way from the struggles that Dr. Carter G. Woodson faced in 1926 to set aside one week in February  to recognize the contributions of African Americans to this country.   It seems so fitting that we are now able to devote the entire month of February for this important recognition, in the month that we also celebrate the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.   For all the problems faced by America during the lifetimes of Lincoln and Douglass, including the barbaric but legal institution of slavery and a civil war that almost destroyed the union, by studying the contributions of these great leaders, the country made itself better.

That is why we must continue our celebrations of Black History Month – so we can learn more about the contributions of unsung leaders as well as those whose name we already know.   In recognizing Black History Month, we continue the work necessary to make a more perfect union.   Black History Month is not however simply a time for ceremony; it is a time to live up to our promise by making equality, freedom and justice our national reality.