It could be said — with a lot of evidence — that February is the most significant month in American history.
Granted, it’s hard to argue against July, in which the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776, as the most important month.
Or you might say September is the key month in our history because of the adoption of our Constitution in that month in 1787.
But the great number of historic events in February is pretty persuasive.
Obviously, it is Black History Month in which includes the birthdays of such abolitionist and civil rights leaders as former slaves Frederick Douglas in 1818 and Harriet Tubman, of “underground railroad” fame, in 1838; W.E.B. DuBois in 1868, the Harvard-trained historian and sociologist who was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in February of 1909; and Rosa McCauley Parks, in 1903, the courageous seamstress whose bus-seat protest in Montgomery, AL, brought Dr., Martin Luther King into prominence in the Civil Rights movement.
In addition, we celebrate the birthdays of probably our two greatest presidents — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln — in February. But two other presidents, William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan, also share that birthday month. And that’s just for starters.
Going back to our beginnings, the first public school was founded in Boston in February of 1635. Among other February events of note:
Five of 27 amendments to the Constitution — including the 15th in 1870 giving former slaves the right to vote - were ratified by the states in February. That same month that year they ratified the 16th authorizing the income tax.
Other amendments (only 26 of them actually apply since the 21st amendment repealed the 18th prohibiting the possession or sale of alcoholic drinks) approved in February are the 11th in 1795 protecting states from lawsuits by nonresidents; the 22nd in 1951 limiting a president to two terms; and the 25th in 1967 setting the process for selecting a temporary successor to a president who dies or becomes incapacitated in office.
Although it was ratified in August of 1920, it was February of 1922 that the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Three states — Massachusetts in 1788, Oregon in 1859 and Arizona in 1912 — joined the union during February and we acquired from Spain in 1819 what now is Florida and from Mexico in 1848 the territory that eventually became seven other states (beside Arizona) while another, Texas, seceded from the union during this month in 1861.
Could February be the month a historic compromise on Immigration reform and a border wall is agreed to by President Donald Trump and a Congress divided by left and right hardliners?
(Adon Taft was for 48 years a reporter for The Miami Herald. He taught Social Studies at Miami-Dade Community College. Now retired, he lives in Brooksville, FL, and can be reached at [email protected])