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WHEREAS, in 1926, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a native Virginian and son of formerly enslaved persons who became the second African American man to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, established what would become Black History Month to bring special acknowledgement and awareness of African American accomplishments, contributions, and history in the shaping of America; and
WHEREAS, Black and African Americans have contributed to the rich fabric and diversity of our Commonwealth and have made significant strides in the arts, business and entrepreneurship, civil rights, culinary arts, education, entertainment, journalism, law, literature, medicine, music, STEAM-H fields, and sports; and
WHEREAS, in 1619, the first documented enslaved Africans arrived at the English colonies at Old Point Comfort, Virginia known as present day Fort Monroe, on the English ships White Lion and Treasurer, and these individuals were sold in exchange for provisions, while others were transported to Jamestown, where they were sold; and
WHEREAS, between 1670 and 1865, Virginia’s enslaved population expanded 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, between 1863 and 1865, hundreds of Black men fought in the American Civil War and died as enlisted men in the United States Colored Troops, seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a free people; and
WHEREAS, after 1865, and the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the complete freedom and civil rights granted to previously enslaved men, women, and children was subverted by brutal Jim Crow laws, preventing their ability to live as fully free citizens and pursue life, liberty, and happiness as guaranteed to white citizens; and
WHEREAS, between 1867 and 1890, African American men were given the right to vote for and to be elected delegates to the Virginia Constitutional Convention, and nearly 100 African American men won election to the convention, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, and hundreds more as workers in city, county and federal government offices; and
WHEREAS, between 1954 and 1968, Black activists, in particular women, spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement, fought for social justice, constitutional rights, organized sit-ins, marches, workshops, boycotts, and grassroots campaigns; and
WHEREAS, attacks on the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments continue to persist in the 21st century, and the Commonwealth of Virginia devotes its citizenry and resources to fulfilling the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation and the United States Constitution; and
WHEREAS, it is important to reckon with the storied truth of our historical past, as well as the Commonwealth’s explicit and implicit contribution to the institution of American slavery and the subsequent systemic racial inequities of today; and
WHEREAS, today, African Americans continue to make gains as entrepreneurs, in public service and across professional fields, challenging structural and systemic barriers put in place to hinder their success; and
WHEREAS, the observance of Black History Month calls us into celebration and acknowledgement of the undeniable contributions of Black Americans and it also calls our attention to the ever-present systemic racism and oppression embedded in our institutions and everyday life and the continued need to work to build an equitable and just society; and
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Virginia will join the nation in acknowledging that Black Lives Matter and celebrating the 95th National Black History Month by honoring the essential accomplishments, contributions, and sacrifices of the Black family in shaping American history and culture;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Ralph S. Northam, do hereby recognize February 2021 as BLACK HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.