Feb. 1, 2023
Below is the text as prepared for delivery of U.S. Rep. Alma Adams’ floor speech marking Black History Month.
“Today I rise to celebrate the first day of Black History Month, and to honor the Greensboro Four for exemplifying this year’s Black History Month theme, Black Resistance.
“Black history is American history, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t ancient history. The Greensboro Four, also known as the A&T Four, sparked the sit-in movement in 1960, just 63 years ago today.
“Think about that: only 6 decades ago, during my lifetime, Black Americans in the South were forced to use different water fountains, eat at separate lunch counters, go to different bathrooms, and most of all, suffer the indignity of second-class citizenship.
“That is why on February 1, 1960, four courageous Black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College – Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil, sat down at a whites-only lunch counter and asked to be served.
“In doing so, the Greensboro Four changed the United States forever.
“The sit-in movement spread to cities across the South, where Black resistance against segregation, discrimination, and Jim Crow eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws segregation in public accommodations.
“It is with great pride that I recognize the A&T Four and every American who joined the sit-in movement to protest the racism of the Jim Crow South, and eventually change public policy. These protests against injustice led to civil rights and voting rights for Black Americans, as well as equal protection under the law.
“Whether it was at that Woolworth’s lunch counter; or on a bus in Montgomery or in a jail cell in Birmingham, or on a bridge in Selma, Alabama; or on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial; or at a Baptist Church in Atlanta; or in a Saint Louis, Missouri courthouse before the Civil War; or at a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in the antebellum South; Black Resistance has nourished and slowly but surely worked to perfect American democracy.
“We, as a nation, have a responsibility to learn from our past and work diligently to carry on the legacy of these four men, and all our ancestors in the movement, by ensuring equal rights for all people, and by protecting the civil rights they fought so hard to win.
“Black History is more important than ever. If it weren’t so important, they wouldn’t try and stop us from teaching it. Last month, Florida schools announced they would not teach an Advanced Placement course in African American History. The State of Florida’s letter to the College Board claimed the course “lacks educational value.”
“I disagree. We can’t afford to remove critical thinking from our curriculum. Our students won’t understand American history without understanding African American history – and those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. That is why this February, all Americans must recommit to teaching Black history in our homes, in our schools, in our churches, on TV, on Twitter, and yes, even in the halls of Congress.
“We must be unafraid to “say Black” and teach our history and heritage. Because if we don’t remember The Greensboro Four, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, Hattie McDaniel, Frederick Douglass, Harriett and Dred Scott, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, and countless others, someday, somewhere, someone will have to endure what they endured to win yet again the rights and respect they fought for.
“That’s why, for me, every month is Black History Month.”