Black History Month 2016


WHEREAS, Virginians of all backgrounds and experiences contribute to our Commonwealth’s rich cultural diversity, storied history and promising future, and it is important for Virginians to recognize the positive contributions to our society made by people of all heritages and races; and

WHEREAS, African-Americans play an important role in Virginia and American history, and the famous historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a native Virginian and the son of former slaves, brought this fact to the world’s attention by founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, publishing significant scholarly works and establishing Negro History Week, the precursor to Black History Month; and

WHEREAS, The Richmond Planet, gave a voice to the daily struggles for freedom and equality of African-Americans in Richmond and throughout our Commonwealth and nation; and

WHEREAS, countless African-Americans have figured prominently in their respective professions throughout the past century, including such distinguished Virginians as Spotswood William Robinson, III, of Richmond, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Oliver Hill, Esquire, of Richmond, whose 1952 case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County argued that Virginia’s segregated schools were unconstitutional, which later became part of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case which ended decades of racial segregation in America’s public schools; Maggie L. Walker, of Richmond, a prominent civic leader and founder and President of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the first American bank chartered by a woman; the Honorable L. Douglas Wilder, of Richmond, Virginia’s 66th Governor and the first African-American elected Governor of any state since Reconstruction; the Honorable Robert “Bobby” Scott, of Newport News, the first African-American elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Virginia since Reconstruction; Leroy R. Hassell, Sr., of Norfolk, the first African-American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court; Yvonne B. Miller, of Norfolk, the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia; Judge Roger Gregory, of Petersburg, the first African-American appointed to the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; James Farmer, of Spotsylvania, and a co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Arenda L. Wright Allen, of Norfolk, the first female African-American appointed as a federal judge in Virginia; Vernon Johns, of Prince Edward County, a Civil Rights activist and pastor who preceded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church; and Raymond H. Boone Sr., of Suffolk, the founder, editor and publisher of the Richmond Free Press; and

WHEREAS, many distinguished African-American athletes and entertainers are Virginians including; Wendell Scott, of  Danville, the first African-American to win a NASCAR event; Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, of Virginia Beach, the first African-American woman to become the all-around gymnastics champion at the Olympics; the late Arthur Ashe, of Richmond, winner of the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon tennis championships; Willie Lanier, of Clover, an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first African-American to play middle linebacker in the NFL; andBill “Bojangles” Robinson, of  Richmond, the legendary Broadway performer who pioneered a new, swinging style of tap dance; and

WHEREAS, many other African-Americans have made important contributions to our country, including Martin Luther King, Jr., our nation’s greatest civil rights leader; Ida B. Wells, the renowned writer, teacher, women’s suffragist and anti-lynching crusader; Jackie Robinson and Earl Lloyd, the first African-Americans to play in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, respectively; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American United States Supreme Court Justice; and Rosa Parks, whose famous decision to remain in her bus seat symbolized the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; and

WHEREAS, it is important to learn from the many lessons found in history’s failures, successes, disappointments and triumphs as we continue to pursue our Founding Fathers’ visions of liberty, justice and equality for all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Terence R. McAuliffe, do hereby recognize February 2016 as BLACK HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.