All about February
By Matt Echelberry
Although February is the shortest month of the year, its 28-day allotment on the calendar (or 29 during Leap Years) has some significance. For starters, February is nationally recognized as Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements of black Americans.
According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (www.asalh.net): “The story of Black History Month begins in Chicago during the
late summer of 1915. Carter G. Woodson traveled to Chicago from
Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth
anniversary of emancipation.”
Inspired by the event, Woodson later formed an organization to promote the
scientific study of black life and history, called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The group later announced the creation of Negro History Week in February, 1926.
History.com explains that the second week of February was chosen for Negro History Week to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The week-long celebration continued and expanded, and by the time of the Civil Rights Movement, was well on its way to becoming a month-long event.
In 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. Since the mid-1970s, every American president, Democrat and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
Some significant accomplishments in black history, according to History.com:
John Mercer Langston was the first black man to become a lawyer in Ohio when he passed the Bar in 1854. When he was elected to the post of Town Clerk for Brownhelm, Ohio in 1855 Langston became one of the first African Americans ever elected to public office in America. John Mercer Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson and served on the Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991.
George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts among them cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Mississippi from February 1870 to March 1871.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York. She broke ground again four years later in 1972 when she was the first major party African-American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States.
In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American performer to win an Academy Award (the film industry‘s highest honor) for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind.
Of course, no February would be complete without Valentine’s Day. Here’s how History.com describes it: “Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.”
History.com explains that there are several saints who were named Valentine, but which one the celebration is based on remains a mystery. “February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
“One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. “
Although written Valentine letters did not appear until 1400, Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.
Some fun facts from www.mydearvalentine.com:
Mother’s day and valentine’s day are the two biggest occasions on which flowers are given,
Of the 73% of people who buy Valentine’s Day flowers are men, while only 27 percent are women.
The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. The color red stands for strong romantic feelings making the red rose the flower of love.
The heart is associated to Valentine’s Day as it is considered the source of all human emotions. The custom of drawing a heart shape is supposed to have come from early attempts to draw an organ that no one had seen.
Every year around 1 billion Valentine cards are sent, the single largest card-sending occasion after Christmas.
In Slovenia, a proverb says that “St Valentine brings the keys of roots”, so on February 14, plants and flowers start to grow.
In Korea, if you do not receive any gift on Valentine’s day then all the singles go to Korean restaurants and eat black noodles to mourn their single status.
And to top off all the history and romance that February has to offer, President’s Day arrives on the third Monday of the month each year. According to History.com, it is an American holiday established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington (whose actual birthday was Feb. 22).
It was the first federal holiday to celebrate the life of an individual person. However, in an effort to create more three-day weekends, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971. The holiday thus became the celebration of presidents in general, rather than solely the first one. Sorry, George.
Also, the date change is said to align the holiday as a celebration for both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday also falls in February. Congressional measures to restore Washington and Lincoln’s individual birthdays were proposed during the early 2000s, but all failed to gain much attention. For its part, the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president.
According to Patriotism.org: “Like Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is traditionally viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance.