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Heritage Months

Hispanic Heritage Month

15 September – 15 October

Each year, individuals of the United States of America observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of citizen’s ancestry who have originated from Latin America. This period was originally started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was expanded by President Ronald W. Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting September 15 and ending October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, by the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of the independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days September 16, and September 18.

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Native American Heritage Month


What began as an effort to gain recognition for the significant contributions as the first individuals of the United States to establish and provide growth for the nation, resulted in the appointing of an entire month for the deserved remembrance.

An important proponent of the American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, A Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, New York. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kansas formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Reverend  Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation September 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There however is no record of such a national day being proclaimed.

The governor of New York declared the first American Indian Day on the second Saturday of May 1916. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 as “National American Indian Heritage Month,” which later became known as Native American Heritage Month as of 1994.

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African American History Month


As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, believed that tribute should be paid to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in society. His belief in raising awareness of African Americans contributions to culture was partially realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926, encompassing the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.

By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more individuals to appreciate the celebration. At the turn of the mid-century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused individuals of the United States of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to history and culture.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black [individuals] in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association— now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)— continues to promote the study of Black history all year.

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Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month


Asian-Pacific Heritage Month originated in a congressional bill in a similar fashion to other distinguished months. In June 1977, representatives Frank Horton of New York and Nortan Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The following month, senators Daneil Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate and both were passed. On October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating the annual celebration. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush singed an extension making the weeklong celebration into a month-long celebration. In 1992, the official designation of May as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad May 10, 1869.

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