Special Emphasis Programs

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister

His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, maternal grandfather. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18.

Dr. King and other black leaders organized the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. for jobs and civil rights. On August 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered a stirring address to an audience of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters. His “I Have a Dream” speech expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any in American history: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The speech and the march built the political momentum resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act prohibited segregation in public accommodations, as well as discrimination in education and employment. As a result of King’s effectiveness as a leader of the American civil rights movement and his highly visible moral stance, he was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for peace.



NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTHThe African Americans racial group ancestry in the United States came from sub-Saharan West Africa. Many African Americans also claim European, Native American, or Asian ancestors.

In 1863, during the American Civil War, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the southern states at war with the North. The 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1865, outlawed slavery in the United States. In 1868 the 14th amendment granted full U.S. citizenship to African Americans. The 15th amendment, ratified in 1870, extended the right to vote to black males.

In 1926 African American scholar Carter Godwin Woodson organized the first Negro History week, to focus attention on previously neglected aspects of the black experience in the United States. Woodson chose February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, as well as the anniversary of the founding of the NAACP. Renamed Black History Week in 1972, the observance was extended to become Black History Month in 1976. During February, lectures, exhibitions, banquets, cultural events, television, and radio programming celebrate the achievements of African Americans. Since 1978 the U.S. Postal Service has participated in Black History Month by issuing commemorative stamps honoring notable African Americans.



Women's History MonthDuring Women's History Month, we recognize the generations of American women whose important contributions continue to shape our Nation and enrich our society.

Through vision, hard work, and determination, countless American women have broadened opportunities for themselves, and others both at home, in the community, and in the workplace. In 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to receive a U.S. patent. By developing a method of weaving straw with silk, she helped advance American industry and set an inspiring example for other American women. Her pioneering efforts helped define our country's entrepreneurial spirit and paved the way for future generations of women to take pride in their talents and creativity. Since Mary Kies' groundbreaking achievement, many American women have become successful entrepreneurs and business professionals.

American women from all backgrounds continue to break barriers and fulfill their personal and professional potential. At the dawn of the 21st century, women have more choices than ever before. Between 1992 and 2002, the number of female college graduates in the United States has increased from 15.9 million to 23.6 million. Women account for 47 percent of all employed persons and are entering the Amican workforce in record numbers. In the last 10 years, their ranks have increased by 8.7 million. Furthermore, women-owned small businesses are growing twice as fast as all their U.S. firms, employing 7 million Americans, and contributing to the vitality of our economy.



Asian Pacific American Heritage MonthMay is Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month—a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. In June 1977, Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. The following month July, senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Both were passed.

When they first arrived in the United States, Asian (usually Chinese) immigrants were welcomed, or at least tolerated. After the California gold rush brought thousands of Chinese to California, however, Asian immigrants faced restrictive laws and occasional violence. In the late 1800s Chinese, and eventually other Asians, were excluded from citizenship. These laws were repealed during World War II, followed by further immigration-law changes, making it easier for Asians to enter the United States.

Today, Asian immigrants have a high rate of assimilation and participation in the American mosaic. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration.

In May 1990, the holiday was expanded further when President George H. W. Bush designated May to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843.


Women’s Equality DayWHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.



National Hispanic Heritage MonthTo honor Hispanic Americans for their many contributions to our Nation and our culture, the Congress, by Public Law 100-402, has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating September 15 through October 15 as "National Hispanic Heritage Month.''

As we approach the 21st century and face the challenges of a global economy, we recognize that the success of our Nation is closely tied to the success of our citizens of Hispanic heritage, who are a large and increasing segment of our population. My Administration is committed to ensuring that Hispanic Americans have the opportunities they need to realize their dreams of a better life.

This month, as we remember with special gratitude the gifts that Hispanic Americans bring to every aspect of our national life, let us reaffirm our efforts to ensure that all Hispanic American families have the tools and opportunities they need to make the most of their lives. Working together, we can meet the challenges of the 21st century in a way that will celebrate our differences and unite us around our common values.

The Hispanic people were among the earliest settlers in the New World, and the accounts of their ventures into the uncharted territories of the southeast and southwest form part of our literary and historical heritage.

The Hispanic people also have unique cultural ties to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The multi-faceted artistic heritage of these cultural ties has yielded outstanding examples of arts and handicrafts. You can explore one Hispanic culture's artistic legacy by examining the art and artifacts of Puerto Rico's history and culture at A Collector's Vision of Puerto Rico, an online exhibit documenting the people, history, and culture of Puerto Rico.



National Disability Employment Awareness MonthOur Nation's annual observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month allows us to reflect upon, and consider the potential possessed by, the millions of Americans with disabilities who currently serve in our workforce, as well as those who are ready and willing to join the workforce. In keeping with this year's theme, "Win with Ability," we recognize and salute the skills, creativity, and dedication of working people with disabilities and take appreciative note of their commitment to our Nation and its continued prosperity.

When President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, our Nation made a promise to no longer underestimate the abilities of disabled Americans-. That Act, and its subsequent implementation, has liberated the energies and talents of millions of Americans with dis-abilities. We have seen evidence of progress in improved access to employment, public places, commercial facilities, information technology, telecommunication services, housing, schools, and polling places.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month has been observed every year since 1945 by presidential proclamation. The observance promotes employment of people with disabilities. Currently, more than 47,000 people with disabilities work for the Defense Department. 6,000 of these have severe disabilities targeted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for emphasis in providing job opportunities.

The Department of Defense also co-sponsors, in conjunction with the Department of Labor, the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities, a government-wide program designed to increase opportunities for the disabled.



National American Indian Heritage MonthThe strength of our Nation comes from its people. As the early inhabitants of this great land, the native peoples of North America played a unique role in the shaping of our Nation's history and culture. During this month when we celebrate Thanksgiving, we especially celebrate their heritage and the contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples to this Nation.

Since our Nation's birth, pluralism and diversity have been hallmarks of the American experience and success. In 1782, the Founding Fathers chose as our national motto "E Pluribus Unum," which means "out of many, one." Today, America's unity, derived from a mix of many diverse cultures and people, grandly embodies the vision expressed by our Founders. American Indian and Alaska Native cultures have made remarkable contributions to our national identity. Their unique spiritual, artistic, and literary contributions, together with their vibrant customs and celebrations, enliven and enrich our land.

As we move into the 21st century, American Indians and Alaska Natives will play a vital role in maintaining our Nation's strength and prosperity. Almost half of America's Native American tribal leaders have served in the United States Armed Forces, following in the footsteps of their forebears who distinguished themselves during the World Wars and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.

During National American Indian Heritage Month, I call on all Americans to learn more about the history and heritage of the Native peoples of this great land. Such actions reaffirm our appreciation and respect for their traditions and way of life and can help to preserve an important part of our culture for generations yet to come.


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