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An annual celebration, Black History Month recognizes the contributions and role African American’s have played in U.S. History. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling on the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

This year’s Black History Month theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity. A theme is set each year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an organization founded in 1915 by Harvard trained historian Carter G. Woodson, also known as the father of Black History Month. The ASALH is dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other people of African Descent. The month of February was chosen as it coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

From activists and entertainers to world renowned athletes, African American’s have contributed and influenced history. Some of the most influential movers and shakers include Martin Luther King Jr.; Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, first black woman to receive a Ph.D., a law degree and the first woman of color to practice law in Pennsylvania; Maya Angelou, poet, author, civil rights activist; Arthur Ashe, tennis player; James Baldwin, novelist, playwright and activist; Ruby Bridges, civil rights activist; Kobe Bryant, NBA star, humanitarian; Bessie Coleman, first black female civil aviator; Claudette Colvin, civil rights pioneer; Francis Harper, abolitionist, poet and teacher; Phillis Wheatley, first African American woman to publish a book of poetry in 1773; Colin Powell, politician, diplomat and retired four-star general; Serena Jameka Williams, worlds No. 1 tennis player; Bryan Stevenson, law professor; social justice activist, author; Barak Hussein Obama, first Black American President; and Kamala Harris, first female Black Vice President of the United States.

Famous speeches given by Black leaders, civil right activists and supporters can be accessed through the Burlington County Library's African-American History database.

Burlington County Library System commemorates Black History Month and offers the following titles of interest: