Black History Month: 5 interesting facts about the annual observance

Gerald Ford designated Black History Month in 1976

Former President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty acknowledge applause from the convention floor during the evening session of the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego Monday, Aug. 12, 1996. Former first lady Betty Ford said Tuesday Dec. 26, 2006 that President Gerald Ford has died. | (Photo: AP / David Longstreath)

President Gerald Ford became the first commander-in-chief to officially designate Black History Month as a national observance, issuing a proclamation in 1976 that called on Americans to “review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life and culture.”

“Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about,” stated Ford, noting that 1976 was the bicentennial of the American Revolution.

“They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.”

Ford also referenced the “significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life” made by the civil rights movement and that “we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers.”

“But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” he added.

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