Public Papers - 1992
Message on the Observance of National African-American (Black) History Month, February 1992
``When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything.'' With these words, Harriet Tubman described her escape from slavery during the mid-19th century. The glory of which she spoke was nothing less than freedom -- and the promise of better days to come.
Although African-American history begins long before the days of Harriet Tubman, who helped to lead thousands of her fellow Blacks out of slavery during the Civil War, it is filled with similar accounts of faith, courage, and triumph in the epic struggle for liberty and justice. This month, through special programs and activities across the country, we honor the many African Americans who have helped to uphold our Nation's declaration ``that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.'' Just as all Americans should study the words and deeds of our Founding Fathers, so should all Americans learn about the Black leaders who have helped to make the promise of freedom a reality.
The men and women whom we remember this month will long inspire others. In addition to honoring individuals such as Rosa Parks and other heroes of the civil rights movement, we also recall pioneers like George Washington Carver, who made important discoveries in agriculture, and Benjamin Banneker, who served as one of the architects of Washington, D.C., our Nation's Capital. We remember outstanding Black American artists, including legendary singers and musicians such as Marian Anderson, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. Others, we remember for their devoted service to our country: from military heroes such as the Tuskegee Airmen to remarkable international civil servants like Ralph Bunche. The stories of these individuals, together with many other accounts, make up the rich fabric of African-American history.
That history, of course, continues to unfold each day, and I am heartened to know that many parents and teachers will be using this occasion to challenge and to inspire young people. With the past as their guide, Black youth can make their future bright, as they weave their own strands in the˙7E˙7E rich˙7E˙7E tapestry˙7E˙7E of˙7E˙7E African-American history.