DEI Special Edition: Celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is celebrated in the United States (and Canada) during the month of February. The observance is an important time to recognize and honor the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history.
To celebrate, the Melton Foundation shares the historical influence of African Americans and the tangible impact of the Civil Rights movement on Immigration in the United States, a key factor in why the Melton Foundation USA is the largest Senior Fellow region.
Here are two podcasts featuring Melton Fellows that are especially relevant as we celebrate Black History Month. For more episodes visit here!
Black History Month helps to correct racist US historical records by highlighting the important roles that African Americans have played in shaping American society. Early in the 20th century, US Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917, effectively banning Asian, Mexican, and Mediterranean people from entering the United States, along with the poor, political radicals, and those with mental or physical disabilities.
Seven years later, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Asian Exclusion Act. The law created a quota system that prioritized immigrants from Northern and Western Europe, drastically restricted immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and Africa, and completely banned Arabs, Asians, and Indians. The law’s stated purpose was to “preserve the idea of American homogeneity.”
At the same time U.S. policy was restricting immigration by people of color, it was denying full citizenship rights to native-born people of African descent whose ancestors had been forced into bondage. It robbed them of their voting rights, deprived them of labor rights, forced them into segregated facilities, and denied them home ownership. See, Jim Crow Laws & Redlining.
Then came the civil rights movement.
When four African-American college students from North Carolina’s A&T University sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, they ignited a movement that brought down Jim Crow and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Our Director – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (and Senior Fellow Batch of 2006 fron New Orleans, USA), Alafia Stewart shares,
“To give the community more real-time context, my parents were both born prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am actually the first person in my direct family to be born with the legislative rights and protections of a US American even though my family has been here for over 300 years. The first.”
But the movement did not end there: It also played a role in ending the race-based immigration quota system.
As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, it made the idea of America as a white nation increasingly unacceptable. Just a few months after passing the Voting Rights Act, Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, abolishing the race-based immigration quota system and replacing it with a system that prioritized refugees, people with special skills, and those with family members living in the United States. It also forbade discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas on the basis of race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.
Black History Month is about sharing and celebrating the stories of countless men and women who made a difference in our world. Black History Month does not just promote diversity; it celebrates diversity. Promoting diversity is bringing awareness to the idea that we are all diverse and we all have something to contribute. In celebrating diversity, we are conveying the idea that diversity is beautiful. Some achievements may be noted more than others, but all of the stories commemorated during the month reveal how they changed the world…and how initiatives centered around inclusion and equality can continue to do so on the individual and communal levels.
Here are some insightful watches to celebrate Black History Month –
Black History Month as understood and explained by kids, featured on Global Citizen
Watch Julieanna L. Richardson share some of the unknown and incredible legacies of Black America, highlighting the importance of documenting and preserving the past
Balancing inclusivity with equal opportunities, the Melton Foundation strives to keep upholding it’s DEI policies in line with global citizenship. Visit meltonfoundation.org/dei to gain insight into our DEI focus and aims, and access a copy of the Melton Foundation’s benchmark Anti-Discrimination Policy!