Jimmy Carter photo

Message on the Observance of National Afro-American (Black) History Month, February 1980

January 15, 1980

The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History can be justly proud of the contributions of its members to scholarship in a long-neglected field. As you celebrate your 65th anniversary this year, you can also take great pleasure in an accomplishment even rarer and more difficult for serious scholars—you have sparked public awareness and broadened the knowledge and interest of all Americans in their history.

Since your founder, Carter G. Woodson, initiated Afro-American (Black) History Month, this annual observance has become an important tradition throughout the nation. By making people aware of the achievements and contributions of black Americans from the earliest history of our people, you have helped to correct the record and brought all Americans a better understanding of their past.

To understand the present, to solve its problems and meet its challenges, we must understand our history. Through this annual observance, you have helped give young black people the knowledge of their roots and the facts of their proud heritage.

The history of black Americans is the record of America's battle with itself to establish the principles of justice, freedom and equal opportunity on which it was founded. It is a record of perseverance and anonymous sacrifice by both black and white Americans over many years. It is a record of calm conviction that overcame the power of hatred and fear and entrenched ignorance. It is a record of human failure and cruelty, but also of human courage and commitment. It is important that all Americans know and understand the true meaning of that record.

Your theme for this year's black history month, "Heritage for America," emphasizes the interest of the Association in encouraging all Americans to study all of our history.

I urge schools and communities throughout the nation to encourage the study of our past, to plan projects and programs to commemorate important historical events and movements and to highlight those whose lives made a difference. I urge all Americans to take this opportunity to learn about our heritage and to participate fully in our democratic system.


Jimmy Carter, Message on the Observance of National Afro-American (Black) History Month, February 1980 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249452

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