Black History Month: February 2020 To recall and celebrate the positive contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week beginning on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.


Lawyer, politician, and mayor of Chicago Harold Lee Washington was born on April 22, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of twenty, Washington was called to active duty in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant before he was discharged in 1946. Washington earned a law degree from the Northwestern University in 1952 and began his political career in 1965. By 1980 he had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1982, he ran for mayor of Chicago as a progressive candidate. Washington defeated sitting mayor Jane Byrne in the primary and went on to win the 1983 general election. He became the first African American to hold the office and was reelected in 1987, but died seven months later. Washington's legacy includes leading the fight for Ward redistricting, which meant more representation for Black and Hispanics in Chicago and being the driving force behind Illinois being the first state to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday a legal holiday.


Born: April 15, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois Died: November 25, 1987 of cardiac arrest while at his desk in City Hall Graduated from DuSable High School in 1946 after serving in the army. Rose to the rank of Sergeant in the Army and earned the Meritorious Service Unit award for building a bomber landing strip on the Pacific island of Angular in only 20 days. Married Nancy Dorothy Finch in 1942 and they were divorced on February 25, 1950. Ran for mayor in 1977 and received 11% of the vote. Won general election on April 12, 1983 by 52% of vote. Inaugurated on April 29, 1983 at the Navy Pier. Encouraged neighborhood festivals and projects while in office. Practiced law from 1952 until he became mayor in 1983. Was an Assistant City Prosecutor (Corporate Counsel) in Chicago from 1954-1958. Initiated the first bill calling for a holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1969.


Harold Washington on the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr holiday: “This legislation accomplishes two things: it honors a great American, and it attempts in a small way to fill a gap in our school curriculum which has given little recognition to black Americans… For the black community, this new holiday provides a means of creating a sense of pride and dignity and honor in the black children which is so necessary for every child.” Harold Washington on his 1983 election as mayor: “We have destroyed the dinosaur.”


In 1902, World renown Opera singer Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She became the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955. In 1923, Jazz saxophonist, Academy Award-nominated actor Dexter Gordon born in Los Angeles, California. He is considered one of the first bebop tenor players. Gordon received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1986 film Round Midnight. In 1988, Figure skater Debi Thomas wins a Bronze Medal becoming the first black to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo a retired Nigerian Army General, a Christian of Yoruba descent won the 1999 elections as the People's Democratic Party candidate with 62.6% of the vote.


Underground Railroad: The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals — many whites but predominantly black — who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year — according to one estimate, the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850. (source:


Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who was born February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, whose novels and stories portray the hardships endured by Southern blacks. Her work includes Meridian, In Love and Trouble, and The Color Purple, which was turned into a critically-acclaimed film in 1985. In 2003, Walker's Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth: New Poems was published, her first collection of poetry in more than a decade. (source: