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February 2024 Cultural Events

February is recognized as Black History Month. The month honors those who have endured centuries of struggle, and those who continue to fight for civil rights. February was chosen as Black History Month because two important figures in black history were born in February: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Carter G. Woodson was the force behind Black History Month when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The celebration grew over the years and was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month.

February 1st

Greensboro Sit-Ins (1960)

In Greensboro, North Carolina, four African American students sat down and ordered coffee at a lunch counter inside a Woolworth's store. They were refused service but did not leave. Instead, they waited all day. The scene was repeated over the next few days, with protests spreading to other southern states, resulting in the eventual arrest of over 1,600 persons for participating in sit-ins.

Some were arrested and charged with trespassing. Protesters launched a boycott of all segregated lunch counters until the owners caved and the original four students were finally served at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where they’d first stood their ground.

The Greensboro sit-ins provided a model for nonviolent resistance and marked an early success for the civil rights movement.

February 3rd

15th Amendment (1870)

The ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed the right of citizens to vote, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Happy Birthday, ELIZABETH BLACKWELL! (1821-1910)

The first female physician in the U.S., Elizabeth Blackwell (was born near Bristol, England. As a girl, her family moved to New York State. She was awarded her MD by the Medical Institute of Geneva, New York, in 1849. She then established a hospital in New York City run by an all-female staff. She was also active in training women to be nurses for service in the American Civil War.

February 5th

1917 – Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917, which includes an "Asiatic Barred Zone," banning Chinese, Asian Indians, Burmese, Thai, Malays, and other non-white people from entering United States. Japan is not on the list of those excluded, as prohibitions against immigrants from that country are already in place, nor is the Philippines, as it is a U.S. territory.

February 8th

The Dawes Act (1887)

On this date in 1887, President Grover Cleveland signed the Dawes Act (sometimes called the Dawes Severalty Act or General Allotment Act), giving the president the authority to divide up land allotted to Native Americans in reservations to individuals. The Act essentially ended tribal control of reservations and divided their land into individual holdings, providing that every head of each Native American family was to get 160 acres of tribal land, while every individual would get 80 acres.

This Act was predominantly seen as an alternative to mass genocide by U.S. forces. It was named for its chief author, Senator Henry Laurens Dawes from Massachusetts, and reversed the long-standing American policy of allowing Indian tribes to maintain their traditional practice of communal use and control of their lands. Women received no land.

February 10th

2020 – The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a ruling that the state of Idaho must provide gender confirmation surgery for Adree Edmo, an inmate in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction. Edmo v. Corizon Inc., 949 F.3d 489 (9th Cir. 2020). The ruling marks the first time a Federal Appeals Court has ruled that a state must provide gender assignment surgery to an incarcerated person. According to the Court opinion, the gender confirmation surgery (GCS) was “medically necessary” for Edmo and, as a result, the Court ordered the State to provide the surgery.

In July 2020, Edmo receives her gender confirmation surgery and a May 2020 appeal by Lawrence Wasden, Attorney General of Idaho, is denied as moot by the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2020.

February 11th

International Day of Women and Girls in Science – A day to promote full and equal access for women and girls to participate in science and to recognize the role that women and girls play in science and technology.

In March of 2011, the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women concluded that women and girls around the world needed more access to education and training in science and technology. Women and girls also needed equal access to gaining employment in these fields. On December 20, 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognized these findings. On December 22, 2015, the UN proclaimed February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Only 35 percent of all students enrolled in fields pertaining to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are women. Recent studies also show that women in these fields are usually paid less than men. Even though there may not be as many women in science and technology, their discoveries and research are just as important. A sampling of women in these fields are as follows:

  • Tiera Guinn – this young scientist from MIT is an aerospace major who is helping to build a rocket for NASA.
  • Marie Curie – this physicist and chemist was the head of the physics lab at a European University who went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1903 with her husband.
  • Elizabeth Blackwell – in 1849, she was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States.
  • Mae C. Jemison – She was a medical doctor and astronaut, who in 1992, became the first African American woman in space.
  • Gertrude Elion – Born in 1918, she was a Nobel winner who developed drugs to treat leukemia and prevent kidney transplant rejection

1990 – Nelson Mandela, South African Black Nationalist and leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, was freed after 27 years in prison. In April 1994, he was elected president in the first all-race elections.

Happy Birthday, TAMMY BALDWIN

Baldwin was the first openly LGBTQ+ woman elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate in 1999 and 2013, respectively.

February 14th

Happy Birthday, FREDERICK DOUGLASS (1817-1895)

An escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author, and public speaker. Douglass became a leader in the abolitionist movement and sought to end the practice of slavery even before the Civil War. His work served as an inspiration to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and his legacy lives on in his revolutionary work toward equal rights.

Happy Birthday, ANNA HOWARD SHAW (1847-1919)

Minister, physician, ardent feminist, and masterful orator, Shaw was the second woman ever to graduate from Boston University School of Theology. She went on to lead the women’s suffrage movement along with Susan B. Anthony.

Ash Wednesday (Christianity)

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, a 40-day period for fasting and abstinence before Easter. During this period, many Lent-observing Christians commit to fasting and give up certain luxuries in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.

Parinirvana or Nirvana Day (Buddhism)

This is a Mahayana Buddhist festival that marks the death of the Buddha. It is also known as Nirvana Day. Buddhists celebrate the death of the Buddha because they believe that having attained Enlightenment, he achieved freedom from physical existence and its sufferings. Present day celebrations often include meditating and reading The Parinirvana Sutta which describes the Buddha's last days.

February 15th

Happy Birthday, SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1820-1906)

Born on this day in 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts, Susan B. Anthony was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement who advocated for abolition, temperance, labor rights, and equal pay for equal work. Anthony dedicated her life to fighting for women’s rights and spent years traveling around the country giving speeches, gathering thousands of signatures on petitions, and lobbying Congress every year for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. Anthony died in 1906, 14 years before women were given the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

February 19th

Executive Order 9066 (1942)

Internment of Japanese Americans began after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order requiring those living on the Pacific coast to report for relocation. Over 110,000 persons therefore shut down their businesses, sold off their property, quit school and moved inland to the relocation centers.

February 20th

World Day of Social Justice (United Nations)

An international day recognizing the need to promote social justice, which includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections.

February 21st

Assassination of Malcolm X (1925-1965)

This African American civil rights leader and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam was shot and killed while delivering a speech in a New York City ballroom. Malcom X was known for articulating concepts of Black identity, integrity, and independence in the early 1960s. Through the influence of the Nation of Islam, Malcom X helped to change the terms used to refer to African Americans from “Negro” and “coloured” to “Black” and “Afro-American.” After his assassination, the widespread distribution of his life story - The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) made him an ideological hero.\

February 26th

2018 – The Pentagon confirms that the first transgender person has signed a contract to join the US military.

February 27th

1922 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote.

In the case, Leser v. Garnet, 258 U.S. 130 (1922) The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. In this unanimous decision the court dismissed a challenge to the 19th Amendment declares that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

The amendment was challenged by Oscar Leser, a Baltimore lawyer, when he sued two women and sought to have them stricken from the city’s voting rolls. He argued, in part, that the Maryland constitution limited suffrage to men and the Maryland Legislature had refused to ratify the amendment. In a 1,036-word opinion written by Justice Louis Brandeis, the court spurned Leser’s claims. Brandeis noted that the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed voting rights to African Americans, had similarly expanded the electorate by that time for over 50 years — despite its having been rejected by six states, including Maryland.

Leser next argued that the state constitutions in some of the ratifying states barred their legislatures from engaging in the ratification process. The court responded that ratification was a federal function derived from Article V of the Constitution and therefore was free of any limitations that might be imposed by state constitutions.

Finally, Leser asserted that the amendment had yet to be adopted because Tennessee and West Virginia had violated their procedural rules. But the court ruled that the point was moot, because by then Connecticut and Vermont had also ratified the amendment — thereby creating a requisite supermajority, even were Tennessee and West Virginia to be excluded. Moreover, the court decided that Tennessee and West Virginia had complied with the ratification processes and that that fact had been duly authenticated by their respective secretaries of state.

February 28th

Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW)

Taking place from February 28th to March 5th, EDAW is an annual campaign to educate the public about eating disorders and provide hope, support, and visibility to individuals and families affected by eating disorders.