Merkley’s Statement on Black History Month

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement today regarding the start of Black History Month:

“Today marks the beginning of this year’s Black History Month. February is a time for all of us to recognize the indelible impact that Black Americans have made on our nation; to recommit ourselves to the struggle to achieve and ensure racial justice throughout our land; and, of course, to celebrate the Black Americans who have made tremendous contributions throughout our history to the fabric of America. Black history is American history—history we have an obligation to understand and learn from.

“As we enter Black History Month this year, we have much to celebrate thinking of the ways Black Americans have built this country economically, culturally, and politically, and how their efforts continue to change the American landscape as we know it. From historian Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, to Stacey Abrams mobilizing Georgians for fair elections and voting rights, to Riley B. (B.B.) King, one of the most influential and celebrated blues musicians of all time, America’s past, present, and future has been profoundly shaped by Black leaders. The United States of America wouldn’t be the country it is today, nor have the vast opportunities ahead that it does, without Black Americans.

“As this year’s Black History Month arrives, we must also recognize that there is a revived, widespread effort to ban the accurate teaching of our country’s history—efforts to stop teaching about the modern realities of racism and to silence voices trying to speak the truth. There are dark chapters in our history, but we have to know the full truth of our past in order to continue our work toward a more just world. We must root out systemic racism and fight for racial justice in all forms. From the continued fight for voting rights to challenging systemically racist parts of our Constitution, like the slavery exception in the 13th Amendment, there is still much work to be done. Not just this month, but always, we must honor and remember the brave work Black leaders in America have accomplished throughout history. We must carry on the fight for justice and equality for all.”