Black History Month

It is an important election year, so Friday, Feb. 21 at the Samuel Walker Houston & Cultural Center, a Black History Month event will focus on “African Americans and the Vote.”

The event will highlight new laws meant to make voting easier, and also marked milestone anniversaries for the black suffrage movement.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote and the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, giving black men the right to vote.

“This is one of the most important Black History Month celebrations of all time,” said Lajuana Glaze, the director of the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center. “These amendments really changed everything for not only African Americans, but the entire country. Our event will honor the dedication of those who fought for these rights and include speakers, lectures and musical performances.”

The 15th Amendment was ratified on Feb. 3, 1870 as the third and last of the reconstruction Amendments, which included the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery and the 14th Amendment, which ensured citizenship for African Americans. However, poll taxes, literacy tests and Jim Crow Laws were created to infringe on the voting rights of African Americans.

The 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, and ensured that voting rights could not be abridged on the basis of sex.

“It is important that we remember these rights, because despite the passage, African Americans still faced challenges voting until the Voting Rights Act of 1964 was passed,” Glaze added. “Recently, we have seen some of those regulations rolled back and attempts to complicate voting, in the form of ID laws and moving registration and voting sites. This shows why we need to continue to fight for our rights.”

Black History Month celebrations will continue on Feb. 22, as a wreath is placed on the grave of Samuel Walker Houston to commemorate his 156th birthday. Following the wreath placement, a historical marker will be dedicated to the Bishop Ward Collegiate Institute, one of the first colleges for African Americans in the country.

“Samuel Walker Houston did so much for education in the African American community and worked to ensure that recognition of equality,” Glaze said. “The Bishop Ward Institute was one of the first colleges in the nation to provide collegiate education to African Americans, so we are really happy that all of this happens to fall during this month and that we can celebrate together.”

The wreath placement is set for Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Oakwood Cemetery, with the marker dedication following at 11 a.m. at the corner of Pleasant Street and Old Madisonville Road in Huntsville.