“Every February since 1976, our nation celebrates Black History Month and remembers the heroes in the African American community that bravely championed our country’s struggle for civil rights and equality. Heroes such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks who tirelessly fought to ensure that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was not just a phrase in our Declaration of Independence but rather words that defined us as Americans.
The theme of Black History Month this year is “African Americans and the Civil War.” This gives all Americans the opportunity to provide recognition to the tens of thousands of African Americans who fought bravely and heroically in the Civil War, as well as to the many others who made other important contributions.
But Black History Month is not only a time to look back at the trailblazing heroes who made our country stronger, it is also a time to look forward and recommit ourselves to the struggles that lie ahead.
Today, in 2011, many African American families are still bearing the brunt of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. African Americans are still facing one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Key initiatives to strengthen the economic recovery and create jobs, enacted by the previous Congress, are starting to take hold, but much more needs to be done.
Furthermore, the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, adopted in response to the Dred Scott decision which denied citizenship to African Americans and their descendants, is under attack by Republicans in Congress and in State Legislatures throughout the country. We cannot take the African American struggle for equality, and the lives lost in the process, in vain by reverting to policies that we as a nation are proud to have left behind. For more than a century we have valued that all children born in the United States are citizens of this great country. This is a core American value, and as a tribute to our nation’s civil rights heroes, we must all unite to fight back Republican attempts to re-create a permanent underclass of children born in the United States.
The CHC remains committed to continuing our work with the Congressional Black Caucus and the African American Community to create jobs, provide equal education for all and ensure that all Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”