Black History is more than 28 days of remembering the people and events of the African Americans diaspora. It is the acknowledgment of how valuable cultural diversity and inclusiveness of African Americans contributions are to this nation. In 2020, FEW will commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment which provided women the right to vote and the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) which granted the rights of black men to vote after the Civil War. Since 1976, every U.S. President has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month, which is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Black History Month grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. FEW is honored to recognize the 2020 Black History Month theme of “African American and the Vote.” Far too often African Americans were underrepresented and disenfranchised from voting; thus, they had no vote and no voice in states and principalities in which they lived.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, even before the Civil War, black men petitioned their legislatures and the US Congress, seeking to be recognized as voters. Tensions between abolitionists and women’s suffragists first surfaced in the aftermath of the Civil War, while black disfranchisement laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries undermined the guarantees in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments for the great majority of southern blacks until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The important contribution of black suffragists occurred not only within the larger women’s movement, but within the larger black voting rights movement. Through voting-rights campaigns and legal suits from the turn of the twentieth century to the mid-1960s, African Americans made their voices heard as to the importance of the vote. Indeed, the fight for black voting rights continues in the courts today and while we remember the passage of these amendments, we also know we have so much more work to do before there is complete equity.
Join FEW as we acknowledge, “African Americans and the Vote” this Black History Month.
FEW National President, Karen Rainey