Black History Month is a time to honor and remember

Black Americans have played a vital role in the history of the United States.

Each February, the country recognizes the accomplishments of Black people in the areas of medicine, the arts, sports, business, law, the military and more during Black History Month. This year’s theme is health and wellness, which explores the legacy of medical professionals.

The White House released a proclamation on Jan. 31, stating that it “serves as both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations. Shining a light on Black history today is as important to understanding ourselves and growing stronger as a Nation as it has ever been. That is why it is essential that we take time to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of Black Americans, honor the legacies and achievements of generations past, reckon with centuries of injustice, and confront those injustices that still fester today. Our Nation was founded on an idea: that all of us are created equal and deserve to be treated with equal dignity throughout our lives. It is a promise we have never fully lived up to but one that we have never, ever walked away from.”

To read the full statement, go here:

A small sampling of inspiring Black Americans

• Fannie Lou Hamer: The subject of a new biography by historian Keisha N. Blain released in late 2021, Fannie Lou Hamer rose to prominence during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in the United States. Born to sharecropper parents in Sunflower County, Mississippi, in 1919, Hamer became an activist in 1962, ultimately providing a powerful voice to a widely underrepresented segment of the African American population fighting for civil rights in the 1960s.

• Bayard Rustin: The March on Washington is among the most widely remembered events during the civil rights era in the United States, and Bayard Rustin was one of the event’s principal organizers. Rustin, who was candid about his sexuality as a gay man in private, often worked behind the scenes during the Civil Rights Movement, which occurred during a period when homosexuality was still criminalized. Rustin later became a public advocate for gay rights in the 1980s.

• Elijah McCoy: The son of former slaves who had escaped enslavement in Kentucky via the Underground Railroad, Elijah McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, in 1844. Despite his humble origins, McCoy would become an influential inventor and engineer, ultimately holding more than 50 patents in Canada, the United States, France, Austria, Germany, Great Britain and Russia.

• Giving voice to African Americans in a different way, Robert Abbot was a pioneer of the black press. He founded a weekly paper called The Chicago Defender, which would become one of the most important newspapers in history in the early 20th century.

• Alvin Ailey was a modern dance choreographer and pioneer. He also was a civil rights activist. He founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which became one of the most successful dance companies in the world. His company was an amalgam of faces and cultures, making it unique for its time.

• Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator, civil rights leader and adviser to five United States presidents. She turned to her faith and used her voice to be a pioneer for racial progress. Education long had been at the core of Bethune’s mission, and she founded two schools and later became one of few female college presidents.

Washington State Historical Society activities

You can explore stories and make connections through online and in-person offerings with the Washington State Historical Society.

· Join in a special event at the Museum of History and Industry on Feb. 19: “The Green Book – More than a Guide.” “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was hailed as the “bible of Black travel.” First published in 1936, the guide identified establishments deemed friendly, safe and willing to serve Black travelers during the era of Jim Crow segregation. On March 19, the Washington State History Museum will open its immersive exhibition, created by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service and curated by Candacy Taylor, about the Green Book. Details at

· See a free online exhibition and try your hand at a guided art activity. Take a look through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visits to Seattle on the WSHS website:

· Stroll over to the Bush Family monument on the Capitol Campus. Unveiled in November 2021, this new monument honors Black pioneer George Bush and his family, who were among the first non-Native settlers in the Washington Territory. R

National resources

The Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution and more have joined to pay tribute to the generations of Black Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship. Go to