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Heritage Celebrations

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrated in September
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the histories and cultures of their ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30 day period. This time period is important, because many Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence during these weeks. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza falls within this 30 day period. For more information, visit the Library of Congress.

LGBT History Month: Celebrated in October
In 1994, Mr. Rodney Wilson, a high school teacher, thought a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history. He gathered teachers and leaders around the community. October was selected as the month due to previous traditions of Coming Out Day on October 11 and public schools being in session.

This month provides the LGBT community an opportunity to educate others in the community while providing role models and making civil right statements. Many national organizations such as GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Education Association have come together to support members of their community while raising awareness and educating other Americans. For more information, visit Equality Forum. See also The Institute for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

American Indian Heritage Month: Celebrated in November
The month of November is dedicated to celebrating the contributions, sacrifices and achievements of the original inhabitants of the United States, the American Indian and Alaska Native people. For almost 100 years, Americans both Indian and non-Indian have desired that there be a place on the calendar to honor their culture and heritage. The celebration originally began in New York State in 1916 as American Indian Day and was later expanded into American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month in 1990. For more information, visit the Library of Congress.

African American History Month: Celebrated in February
Black History Month was first initiated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is considered a pioneer in the study of African American History. He believed that truth could not be denied and reason would prevail over prejudice. Thus, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) and Negro History Week in 1925.

In 1976, this week expanded into Black History Month, also known as African American Heritage Month. It is now a federally recognized celebration providing Americans nationwide the opportunity to reflect on the significant roles African Americans have played in shaping the United States. Woodson chose February as the month due to the birthdays of two influential men: Fredrick Douglass, an escaped slave who became one of the notable black abolitionists and civil rights leaders in the nation, and President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery in America. For more information, visit the Library of Congress. See also African American Studies as an additional resource.

National Women’s History Month: Celebrated in March 
Like other heritage months, Women’s History Month was first nationally recognized in 1982 as Women’s History Week. In 1987, after the Women’s History Project petitioned, the week was expanded into a month used to recognize the shared past from a different perspective. It represents the excelling nature of women from where they started to where they have come today, recognizing and honoring their accomplishments. Women’s lives now inspire other women to achieve their full potential while encouraging men to respect the diversity of their experience and achievements. For more information, visit the Library of Congress. See also The Institute for Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies as an additional resource.

Asian-Pacific Islander American Heritage Month: Celebrated in April
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and is a time to celebrate the Asian and Pacific Islander history and culture. Due to the fact that our academic year concludes in April, we celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in April. In 1977, New York and California state representatives introduced a bill that eventually led to the first 10 days of May to be known as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. Twelve years later, under President George H. W. Bush, the week-long celebration was extended into a month-long celebration.

The month of May was chosen for two main reasons, the first being to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States in 1843. May was also chosen to honor Chinese immigrants as they were the majority of workers who laid the tracks for the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. For more information, visit the Library of Congress. See also Asian Studies Center as an additional resource.