President Obama has issued the annual proclamation declaring February to be National African American History Month.
"We remember the courage that led activists to defy lynch mobs and register their neighbors to vote," wrote the nation's first African-American president. "And we carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."
From the proclamation:
"Americans have long celebrated our Nation as a beacon of liberty and opportunity -- home to patriots who threw off an empire, refuge to multitudes who fled oppression and despair. Yet we must also remember that while many came to our shores to pursue their own measure of freedom, hundreds of thousands arrived in chains.
"Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. During National African American History Month, we honor the men and women at the heart of this journey -- from engineers of the Underground Railroad to educators who answered a free people's call for a free mind, from patriots who proved that valor knows no color to demonstrators who gathered on the battlefields of justice and marched our Nation toward a brighter day.
"As we pay tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, of African-American history, we recall the inner strength that sustained millions in bondage. We remember the courage that led activists to defy lynch mobs and register their neighbors to vote. And we carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Even while we seek to dull the scars of slavery and legalized discrimination, we hold fast to the values gained through centuries of trial and suffering.
"Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African-American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole. This story affirms that freedom is a gift from God, but it must be secured by His people here on earth. It inspires a new generation of leaders, and it teaches us all that when we come together in common purpose, we can right the wrongs of history and make our world anew."