When Malia and Sasha Obama reach their 18th birthdays and vote for the first time, they can be reminded of their upcoming family trip to Selma, Alabama, with President Obama and First Lady Obama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. President Obama shared news of their pending historic trip at the White House’s annual reception in honor of Black History Month.
“I know that when I take Malia and Sasha down with Michelle next week, down to Selma, part of what I’m hoping to do is to remind them of their own obligations,” said Obama. “Because there are going to be marches for them to march, and struggles for them to fight. And if we’ve done our job, then that next generation is going to be picking up the torch, as well.”
During the event, Obama recognized individuals who played pivotal roles in the Selma struggle including 77-year old Mattie Atkins who protested for voting rights in Alabama at the Marion Courthouse and was the first woman elected to the school board in Perry County. She was one of marchers who attempted to march to the county jail the night Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed.
Obama took the occasion of Black History Month to further acknowledge the bravery shown by the individuals who put their lives on the line during the Civil Rights Movement and for voting rights in Selma. The arduous truth, as Obama noted, is that there are countless untold stories of civil rights heroes that toiled for justice and equality.
“They stand as testimonials to the fact that one day a year is not enough to honor the kind of courage that they showed. One month a year is not sufficient to take on their example and to celebrate the power of a movement. That’s something that we have to do, each and every one of us, every day, living up to their example, then handing it on to our own children, and our children’s children,” said Obama.
Today, the White House will present a proclamation at the National Black History Month Celebration to the founders of Black History Month, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), during its centennial anniversary.
Because of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who founded ASALH in 1915, many has celebrated the contributions of African American for 100 years. Annually ASALH sets the National Black History theme. This year’s theme is A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture–to focus on the achievements of African Americans and people of African descent during its first century.
ASALH President, Dr. Daryl Michael Scott, said that ASALH is proud to have succeeded in preserving the memory of African American achievements through its mission and through maintaining scholarly journals such as the Journal of African American History, the Black History Bulletin, and Fire!!!: The Multimedia Journal of Black Studies.
“History is about self-knowledge and Black history is about understanding humanity. No American, regardless of background, can understand the history of our country without understanding black history,” said Scott. You cannot understand the centrality of equality in American culture without understanding the struggle of African Americans to make it a part of the fabric of our national identity. And no African American child can begin to understand their own individual way forward without first looking back to view the efforts made to establish the path they travel,” he said.
As President Obama looks to Selma, he and First Lady Michelle Obama have made it a priority to honor African American achievements. Recently, First Lady Obama spearheaded inclusion of the first painting by an African American woman in the White House Collection called “Resurrection.” The late Alma Woodsey Thomas, born in Columbus, Georgia, created the painting.
The event culminated with President Obama reiterating the significance of Black History Month. “We don’t set aside this month each year to isolate or segregate or put under a glass case black history. We set it aside to illuminate those threads — those living threads that African Americans have woven into the tight tapestry of this nation — to make it stronger, and more beautiful, and more just, and more free.”