For more than 90 years, Americans have seen the month of February as a time to remember the rich and diverse history of African Americans as we celebrate Black History Month.
The achievements of African Americans touch every community and are found in every field of study, including science and technology. This is a time to remember the sacrifices and hard work of individuals who helped build a better and more tolerant life, both past, present and future, for all of us.
As we acknowledge the many African-American men and women who have helped the United States grow culturally, countless civil rights pioneers in Florida have been equally as important and should be reflected upon as agents of change in our own state.
The appointments of Justice Peggy Ann Quince, the first African American woman appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, and the late Leander Shaw, Jr., the first African American to become Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, both helped to pave the way for countless young black lawyers who might not have had the chance to practice law and reach all levels of the state’s judiciary.
For the last six years, the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame has honored individual Floridians who made great sacrifices and helped foster equality for all in our state. These heroes, including last year’s new inductees, Patricia Stephens Due, Dr. Arnett Elyus Girardeau, Sr. and Willie H. Williams, were recognized for their unyielding commitment to equality, diversity and human dignity.
Today’s African Americans have much to celebrate and build upon as they honor those who have gone before them.
Black History Month gives us the opportunity to recognize the many ways these individuals who have enriched Florida's communities, culture and history.
Latanya Peterson is the vice chair of the Florida Commission on Human Relations.