AFGE Celebrates Black History Month

Categories: Civil Rights

The month of February is recognized as Black History Month.  This year's theme is "A Century of Black Life, History and Culture". AFGE’s Women’s and Fair Practices Departments were excited to kick off this month's celebration at our annual Civil Rights Luncheon at the 2015 AFGE Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference. 

Attendees were able to hear musical selections from Elise Bryant, Executive Director of the Labor Heritage Foundation and a word from keynote speaker, Dr. Daryl Michael Scott, Professor of History at Howard University and President of the Association of the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

In an effort to celebrate this heritage month, we hope that each of you stop by the Women’s and Fair Practices Department at your convenience and pick up one or both of our black history month posters to display in your work space.

The Ride of the Century

In May of 1961, 13 civil rights activists - both black and white - embarked on a series of bus trips throughout the American South.  The volunteers were recruited by C.O.R.E. (Congress of Racial Equality) and were known as the "Freedom Riders".  The idea of the Freedom Rides came from the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, which was put together to test a Supreme Court decision to desegregate seating on interstate buses.  The purpose of the Freedom Rides was to force the integration of public restrooms and lunch counters in the South.

Once the Freedom Riders left Washington, D.C., they encountered little opposition or violence until they reach deeper parts of the south, namely South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama.  Eventually, under pressure from the Kennedy Administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission  issued regulations that prohibited segregation in bus terminals.

While there were many who sacrificed their lives on the Freedom Rides, some famous riders include Stokely CarmichaelRep. John Lewis (GA-5), and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.e's Out of this World!

Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the daughter of an elementary school teacher and a roofer from Chicago, was the first African American woman to be admitted into NASA's Astronaut Training Program and in 1992 became the first African American woman in space.  After receiving her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University and her medical degree from Cornell University, she says that she was inspired to become an astronaut after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, completed her mission in 1983.

Though Dr. Jemison was the first black woman in space, she was preceded by four African American men: Guion Bluford (1983), Ronald McNair (1985), Frederick Gregory (1985) andCharles F. Bolden, Jr. (1986) who happens to be the current and first African American NASA Administrator.  There was not another African American woman in space until Stephanie Wilson in 2006.

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