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Message from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee on National African American History Month, February 2010

I join President Obama in recognizing February as National African American History Month.

To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week, with the first celebration occurring on Feb. 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist and editor Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month. Each year since that time, U.S. presidents have proclaimed February as National African-American History Month. I am so pleased that President Obama, our nation’s first African American President, has followed this meaningful tradition.

African Americans of all ages have helped to shape the past, present and future of the United States. African Americans are the second largest minority population in our country, and this population is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The African American population 65 and older numbered 3.2 million in 2008 and is projected to grow to more than 9.9 million by 2050.

The Administration on Aging together with its national network of community-based organizations works hard to ensure that all older Americans, including African American elders, are able to age with dignity and to remain an integral part of their families and communities for as long as possible. In 2008, with support from the Administration on Aging, the network provided services to a total of 10.7 million persons age 60 and over. 11% of the recipients of those community-based services were non-Hispanic African American elders. We pledge to continue to work improve the health status of African Americans. Most African American elders have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. We know these challenges exist, and we look forward to continued partnerships at the Federal, state and local level to promote good health and a secure quality of life for all older Americans.

As we celebrate National African American History Month, we celebrate the achievements, proud history and rich culture of African Americans. To read the President’s proclamation, please visit: