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Speeches and articles

Celebrating Freedom and Black History

February 1, 2013
Abraham Lincoln Memorial (©iStockphoto.com/Eric Foltz)

Abraham Lincoln Memorial (©iStockphoto.com/Eric Foltz)

February 1 marks National Freedom Day, commemorating 148th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing on this day in 1865 of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. National Freedom Day was the brainchild of Major Robert Wright, Sr., a former slave, who organized a group of leaders to write a bill creating a national holiday to celebrate freedom for all Americans. Since the 1940s, we have marked this day by laying a wreath at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

The day also marks the beginning of Black History Month, which was the inspiration of noted scholar and historian Carter G. Woodson. Woodson instituted Negro History Week in 1926, and chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. Each February, Black History Month honors the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens over the most devastating obstacles: slavery, prejudice, poverty as well as their contributions to the nation’s cultural and political life.