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Message from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee on National African American History Month, February 2012

I join President Obama in recognizing February as National African-American History Month in recognition of the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent.

The 2012 theme for African American History Month is “Black Women in American Culture and History.” As with many cultures, throughout history, African American women have played a defining role in family, church and community. From Harriet Tubman who after escaping from slavery, made thirteen return missions to the south to rescue more than 70 slaves using the Underground Railroad Network, and in the post-Civil War era struggled for women’s suffrage, to educator and social activist Dr. Dorothy Height who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004, to First Lady Michele Obama, African American Women have had a significant role in shaping who we are as a Nation today.

African American women have made great strides but many continue to suffer. Three in five older African Americans are women, and their median income is $35,049. The great majority of African American caregivers are women, many of whom have multiple chronic conditions themselves as well as a variety of family responsibilities. The 33 percent poverty rate of older African American women who live alone is second only to older Hispanic women (44 percent).

The Administration on Aging and the National Aging Services Network, through the services of the Older Americans Act, work to ensure that elder African Americans and all older Americans maintain their well-being and independence with value and dignity. As the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are implemented, we will continue to develop and advance a nationwide system of home & community-based long-term services and support that is first and foremost responsive to the needs & preferences of older Americans and their caregivers.

To read the President’s proclamation, please visit