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Black History Month


WHEREAS, Virginians of all backgrounds and experiences contribute to the rich diversity, storied history, and promising future of our Commonwealth, and it is important for Virginians to recognize the contributions to our society made by all of our citizens; and

WHEREAS, African Americans have made significant contributions to Virginia and American history, and Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a native of Buckingham County, and the son of formerly enslaved persons, who went on to become the second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, dedicated his life to researching and sharing the history of African Americans by founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the Journal of Negro History, publishing significant scholarly works and establishing Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month; and

WHEREAS, in 1619, the first Africans arrived at the English colonies at Old Point Comfort, Virginia, on the English ships White Lion and Treasurer, and some of these individuals were sold in exchange for food, and others were transported to Jamestown, where they were sold again, likely into slavery; and

WHEREAS, in 1670, a Virginia law passed that defined slaves-for-life as all non-Christian servants brought to the colony “by shipping,” which ensured that all men, women, and children that were transported to the Virginia colonies were enslaved for the entirety of their life; and

WHEREAS, between 1670 and 1865, Virginia’s enslaved population would expand to 550,000 individuals, which constituted one third of the Commonwealth’s population, and although an act of Congress in 1808 banned the international slave trade, one of Virginia’s largest industries included the domestic slave trade; and

WHEREAS, prior to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, countless numbers of enslaved men, women and children resisted the degradation of slavery and sought freedom; and

WHEREAS, during the American Civil War, hundreds of black men fought and died as enlisted men in the United States Colored Troops, seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a free people, and five Virginians –Powhatan Beaty (5th USCT), James Gardiner (36th USCT), Miles James (36th USCT), Edward Ratcliff (38th USCT), and Charles Veal (4th USCT) – were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service and sacrifice during the war; and

WHEREAS, the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865, which marked the end of the American Civil War, and the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, allowed men, women, and children to be set free from human slavery and start their lives as fully free citizens; and

WHEREAS, after the American Civil War, during the era of Reconstruction between 1865-1877, as a condition of readmission into the Union, former slave states were required by Congress to create reconstructed governments, hold state conventions, and establish new constitutions; and

WHEREAS, in Virginia, African American men were given the right to vote for and to be elected delegates to the convention, and 24 African American men were elected to the 1867-1868 Virginia Constitutional Convention, which drafted and passed the Virginia Constitution of 1869; and

WHEREAS, between 1867 and 1890, during Reconstruction, nearly 100 African American men won election to the convention, the House of Delegates, and the Senate of Virginia, and hundreds more in city and county government offices or as postal workers and other federal jobs; and

WHEREAS, prominent African Americans in the Commonwealth who were elected or appointed to serve in local, state, or federal government include: the Honorable Arenda L. Wright Allen,the Honorable Peter Jacob Carter, the Honorable Willie J. Dell, the Honorable Roland J. ‘Duke’ Ealey, the Honorable Roger Gregory, the Honorable Curtis Harris, the Honorable Leroy R. Hassell, Sr.,the Honorable Willis A. Hodges,the Honorable John M. Langston,the Honorable Henry L. Marsh,the Honorable Yvonne B. Miller, the Honorable Daniel M. Norton, the Honorable William F. “Fergie” Reid,the Honorable Spottswood William Robinson, III, the Honorable Robert “Bobby” Scott, the Honorable John Charles Thomas, the Honorable L. Douglas Wilder, and many others; and

WHEREAS, notable civil rights leaders and lawyers in Virginia who advanced the cause of liberty, justice, and equality for African Americans in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation include: Eugene Allen, Ella Baker, Betty Ann Kilby Fisher Baldwin, Henry ‘Box’ Brown, Anthony Burns, Evelyn Thomas Butts, Esther Georgia Irving Cooper, Herbert V. Coulton, Sr., James Farmer, Dr. Calvin Coolidge Green, Reverend Leslie Francis Griffin, Reverend Dr. Curtis West Harris, Andrew Heidelberg, Dorothy Height, Oliver Hill, Esq., Gloria Jean Mead Jinadu, Barbara Johns, Reverend Vernon Johns, Margie Jumper, Elizabeth Keckley, Betty Ann Kilby, Reverend James Kilby, Irene Amos Morgan Kirkaldy, Richard and Mildred Loving, Lavinia Marian Fleming Poe, the Richmond 34, Ora Brown Stokes, Gregory Hayes Swanson, William Thornton, M.D., Sam Tucker, Nat Turner, Maggie L. Walker, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, Reverend Dr. Raymond R. Wilkinson, and many others; and 

WHEREAS, distinguished African American educators, scientists, doctors, and journalists in Virginia history include: George Freeman Bragg, Dr. Virgie M. Binford, Raymond H. Boone, Sr., John Andrew Bowler, Rosa L. Dixon Bowser, Mary Elizabeth Branch, Lucy Goode Brooks, George O. Brown, John H. Davis, Jennie Serepta Dean, John Malcus Ellison, Jean Louise Harris, M.D.,  Mary Winston-Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Sarah Garland Boyd Jones, Henrietta Lacks, John Mitchell, Jr., Dr. Robert Russa Moton, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, James Solomon Russell, William Henry and Lucy Gantt Sheppard, Lucy F. Simms, Dr. LaVerne Byrd Smith, Dorothy Vaughan, Ruby Clayton Walker, Booker T. Washington, Dr. James Edward Maceo West, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Roger Arliner Young, and others; and

WHEREAS, Virginia based newspapers such as The Richmond Free-Press, The Richmond Planet, The Lancet, and The Norfolk Journal and Guide gave a voice to the daily struggles for freedom and equality of African Americans throughout our Commonwealth and nation; and

WHEREAS, renowned African American athletes and entertainers that are Virginians include: Arthur Ashe, Michael Eugene “D’Angelo” Archer, Pearl Bailey, Ruth Brown, LaTasha Colander, Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, Kenny Easley, Jr,Missy Elliott, Ella Fitzgerald, Dr. Edwin B. Henderson, Allen Iverson, Lawrence “LoJo” Johnson, Willie Lanier, Moses Malone, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley, Francena McCorory, Don Pullen, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ralph Sampson, Wendell Scott, Bruce Smith, Lonnie Smith, Wanda Sykes, Pharrell Williams, and many others; and

WHEREAS,many other African Americans have made important contributions to our country, including Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, the Honorable Blanche K. Bruce, the Honorable Shirley A. Chisholm, Miles Davis, W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Langston Hughes, James W. Johnson, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Earl Lloyd, the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, the Honorable Barack H. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Gordon Parks, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells; and

WHEREAS, it is important to learn from the many lessons found in history’s failures, successes, disappointments, and triumphs as we strive to pursue an inclusive vision of liberty, justice, and equality for all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize February 2018 as BLACK HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.