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Historical Happenings in February 2023


Dive into this month’s monumental moments as we celebrate Black History Month, Presidents’ Day, and more “Historical Happenings” in February. These free resources, lesson plan ideas, and activities are our Valentine’s Day gift to you!


History at a Glance:

  • February 1 - March 1, 2023: Black History Month

  • February 3, 1870: Ratification of the 15th Amendment

  • February 20, 2023: President’s Day

  • February 23 – March 6, 1836: Battle of the Alamo


February 1 - March 1: Black History Month


Originally started as a week-long celebration in 1926 by the Association for the Study of the African American Life and History (ASALH) and Carter G. Woodson[1], Black History Month recognizes and honors the achievements of African Americans.[2]


Known as “the father of Black history,” Woodson was an African American historian and founder of ASALH (1915). In 1926, Woodson selected the second week of February to celebrate Black history because it overlapped with the dates of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Frederick Douglass’s birthday (believed to be in February 1818 and nationally celebrated on February 14).[3]


Over the following decades, college campuses and cities across the nation joined in the week-long celebration. In 1976, the week-long observance became a month-long celebration when President Gerald Ford nationally recognized Black History Month.


Learn more about Black History Month in our “Celebrate Black History Month” blog, and discover ways to commemorate African Americans’ accomplishments using the free resources below.


Teaching Resources:


  • “The Harlem Renaissance” Primary Source Set by Library of Congress: Explore the artwork, music, literature, and dance that came out of the Harlem Renaissance using the Library of Congress’s collection of primary sources. These newspaper articles, poems, and photographs help students connect the artists' accomplishments to the cultural and historical significance of the Harlem Renaissance.

  • “Civil Rights Movement: Respond and Relate Acitivty” by National Gallery of Art: Students will work in small groups to discuss these photographs’ significance, young people's roles in the Civil Rights Movement, and how activism is practiced today.


February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment was Ratified


The right to vote is one of the fundamental liberties of U.S. citizens. Still, it wasn't until the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that Black men were given that right. The amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”[4]


This amendment served as a huge milestone in the timeline of civil rights for African Americans following the end of the Civil War. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery (ratified on December 6, 1865), and the 14th Amendment gave citizenship to formerly enslaved people (ratified on July 9, 1868).


Although the 15th Amendment gave Black men the right to vote, it did not extend to Black women (the ratification of the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote). Both the 15th and 19th Amendments[5] did not protect African American men and women from experiencing discrimination at the polls.[6] “Grandfather clauses,” poll taxes, and literacy tests were created and implemented in many Southern states to prevent African Americans from voting.[7]


These discriminatory practices were finally prohibited with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965. The Voting Rights Act protected African Americans’ right to vote under the 15th and 19th Amendments by outlawing literacy tests and investigating poll taxes in state and local elections.[8] Within months of the act becoming law, a quarter of a million Black voters were registered.[9]


Teaching Resources:


  • “Voting Rights in America” by the Bill of Rights Institute: By examining the 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th Amendments, students will observe the progression of voters’ rights and answer questions about citizens’ political freedoms.

  • “‘The Fifteenth Amendment in Flesh and Blood’: The Symbolic Generation of Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1887” by History, Art & Archives – U.S. House of Representatives: Black men were able to be elected to Congress following the ratification of the 15th Amendment. The first Black U.S. senator was Hiram Revels, and he was appointed to the U.S. Senate on January 20, 1870. Joseph Rainey was the first Black U.S. representative, and he was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives on December 12, 1870. Your students can read their biographies, learn about their contributions to U.S. politics, and create a timeline in this activity.


February 20: Presidents’ Day


When you’re the first U.S. president, you’re a big deal, and so is your birthday! George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, and his birthday became a nationally recognized holiday in 1885.[10]


Known as Washington’s Birthday, this holiday was celebrated on February 22 but was later changed to the third Monday of February. This change was made to create three-day weekends under the Monday Holiday Act, which went into effect in 1971.[11]


Washington shares his birthday month with Presidents William Henry Harrison (born on February 9, 1773), Abraham Lincoln (born on February 12, 1809), and Ronald Reagan (born on February 6, 1911). Thus, the name of the holiday evolved to Presidents’ Day to include all presidents, past and present!


For more presidential history, browse the titles in our Presidents’ Day sale, and explore the free teaching resources below!


Teaching Resources:


  • “Advise the President” by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: Ever wonder what it would be like to enter the Oval Office as a presidential advisor? Find out in these lesson plans! In each of the five activities, students are challenged with helping the president make decisions about national and global issues — from advising President Gerald R. Ford on New York City’s financial crisis to counseling President Ronald Reagan on economic recovery.

  • “A Birthday Celebration for George Washington” by George Washington’s Mount Vernon: Throw a birthday party fit for a president and party like it’s the 1780s! In this activity, students are divided into one of two 18th-century committees: the Birthday Party Planning Committee and the Birthday Parade Committee. Both committees are tasked with researching the time period to create an authentic party and parade.


February 23 – March 6, 1836: Battle of the Alamo


“Remember the Alamo!” was the rallying cry of U.S. soldiers during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.[12] Just ten years prior, a band of Texan volunteer soldiers battled against the Mexican Army in what became known as the Battle of the Alamo.


The Alamo, located in present-day San Antonio, Texas, had previously served as a mission before being converted into a fort. Texan volunteers captured the Alamo in December 1835 during the Texas Revolution — Texas citizens’ fight for independence from Mexico.[13]


Led by Colonel James Bowie and Lieutenant Colonel William B. Travis, these 200 Texan soldiers defended the Alamo in a siege that lasted for 13 days. Although they were defeated by Mexican troops, their bravery in defense of the Alamo until the very end spurred the Texan Army onward. “Remember the Alamo!” the Texan Army declared during the victorious Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, thereby gaining Texas’s independence from Mexico.[14]


Teaching Resources:


  • The Mystery of the Alamo Ghost Teacher’s Guide by Carole Marsh/Gallopade International: Full of activities, trivia, and vocabulary, this free resource is a companion guide to The Mystery of the Almao Ghost and teaches students the history of the Alamo mission and the Battle of the Alamo.

  • “Alamo Church Virtual Tour” by The Alamo: Take your students on a virtual field trip to the Alamo Church and “walk” through living history. This virtual tour shows you a 360° view of the Alamo Church’s interior and exterior, including cannonball damage to the outside of the church during the Battle of the Alamo. Fun facts are also sprinkled throughout the tour for your students to click on.

For more historical tidbits, lesson plan ideas, and free activities, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, check out our other blogs for even more resources!


 

Sources: [1] “Carter G. Woodson.” Britannica, 15 December 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Carter-G-Woodson. Accessed 25 January 2023.

[2] Franklin, Jonathan. “Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February.” NPR, 1 February 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1075623826/why-is-february-black-history-month. Accessed 25 January 2023.

[3] Bomboy, Scott. “The story behind the Frederick Douglass birthday celebration.” Constitution Center. 14 February 2021, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-story-behind-the-frederick-douglass-birthday-celebration. Accessed 25 January 2023.

[4] “15th Amendment: Right to Vote Not Denied by Race.” National Constitution Center, https://constitutioncenter.org/the-constitution/amendments/amendment-xv#:~:text=The%20right%20of%20citizens%20of,or%20previous%20condition%20of%20servitude. Accessed 27 January 2023.

[5] “When Could Black Women Vote?” ConstitutionUS.com, https://constitutionus.com/constitution/rights/when-could-black-women-vote/. Accessed 30 January 2023.

[6] “15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870).” National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/15th-amendment. Accessed 27 January 2023.

[7] “15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Primary Documents in American History.” Library of Congress, https://guides.loc.gov/15th-amendment. Accessed 27 January 2023.

[8] “Voting Rights Act of 1965.” HISTORY, 10 January 2023,https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act. Accessed 30 January 2023.

[11] “Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day).” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/washingtons-birthday. Accessed 31 January 2023.

[12] “Battle of the Alamo.” HISTORY, 19 January 2023, https://www.history.com/topics/latin-america/alamo. Accessed 1 February 2023.

[13] Bluhm, Raymond K. “Battle of the Alamo.” Britannica, 9 December 2022, https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-the-Alamo-San-Antonio-Texas-United-States-1836. Accessed 1 February 2023.

[14] “Freedoms Worth Fighting For.” The Alamo, https://bit.ly/3XRHQCl. Accessed 1 February 2023.

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