African-American History Month: Learn something new

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The transition from slavery to freedom represents one of the major themes in the history of the African diaspora in the Americas.

Each February, African-American History Month highlights the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens during some of the most devastating obstacles -- slavery, prejudice, poverty -- and looks at their contributions to the nation's cultural and political life.

African-American History Month has not always been a month-long celebration and, contrary to popular belief, the idea was not Carter G. Woodson's.

In fact, it began as a week-long celebration called Negro History Week and was created by a black fraternity. It was Mr. Woodson, however, whose sponsorship and development of it helped turn it into a popular month long celebration.

This year marks the 81st annual celebration since Mr. Woodson, a noted scholar and historian, instituted Negro History Week in 1926.

He chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The theme for 2007, "From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas," takes its name from historian John Hope Franklin's 1947 book "From Slavery to Freedom."

"From Slavery to Freedom" describes the rise of slavery, the interaction of European and African cultures in the New World, the emergence of a distinct culture and way of life among slaves and free blacks, and their continued struggle for equality at the end of the 20th century.

This month commemorates the efforts of African-Americans who have crossed boundaries, broken barriers, and contributed to their respective fields. This month, absorb something new, learn a new fact, a quote, a song, a piece of history.

It was Maya Angelou who said, "No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been." So find a new direction by taking a look back.

(Courtesy of the Andersen AFB African-American Heritage Month Observance Committee)

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