Speeches, poem readings and historical reflection were all part of the Black History Month celebration hosted Friday at the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center, where nearly 100 people gathered for the celebration.

Black History Month 2020 was given the theme “African Americans and the Vote,” which was highlighted Friday. The theme coincides with 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 year’s Black History Month theme is so appropriate, because it not only honors the right to vote given to African Americans and women, but this year is also a census year,” said Lajuana Glaze, the director of the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center. “The census is something that we must all participate in because we must ensure that we are counted and can make a difference in our community. This is also a presidential election year and we must vote in the primaries and general election to ensure that our voices are heard. This is why these amendments and our right to vote was fought for.”

The Black History Month program featured three dance groups, a comedian, poem readings and stories about George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. Several skits were performed during the event, highlighting the struggles African Americans faced even after the passage of the 15th Amendment, including poll taxes, literacy tests and Jim Crow Laws.

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

“When I went to vote for the first time, poll taxes were still exercised in Texas. We did not have a lot of money, but we knew we needed to exercise our rights, so we saved up the money to ensure we could vote and that our voices were heard,” Glaze added. “We still see obstacles to voting today, including voter ID laws and poll relocations, but we have fought too hard to give up this right and we must not take it for granted.”