In our history as a nation, some pivotal moves toward securing freedom and liberty were executed in the month of February. On February 9th, 1864, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered over 100,000 signatures to the U.S. Senate in support of the Republicans’ plan to amend the Constitution to ban slavery. And less than one year later, on February 1st, 1965, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, formally banning slavery and freeing all enslaved peoples. As a result, February 1st is known permanently as National Freedom Day. What is meant by National Freedom?
According to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, “freedom” is, in fact, an ideal that consists of three component ideals: (1) national freedom; (2) political freedom; and (3) individual freedom. National freedom is freedom from foreign control. This is the most basic concept of freedom. It is the desire of a nation, ethnic group, or tribe to rule itself. It is national self-determination. Political freedom is the freedom to vote, hold office, and pass laws. It is the ideal of “consent of the governed.” Individual freedom is a complex of values. In its most basic form, individual freedom is the freedom to live as you choose as long as you harm no one else, Each nation, each epoch in history, and perhaps each individual may define this ideal of individual freedom in different terms. In its noblest of expressions, individual freedom is enshrined in our Bill of Rights. It is freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, economic freedom, and freedom to choose your lifestyle.”
So while slaves gained their national freedom they still were not afforded political freedom, most notably the right to vote, and in many cases complete individual freedom. But six years later, on February 3rd, 1870, after passing the House with 98% Republican support and 97% Democrat opposition, the Republicans’ 15th Amendment was ratified, granting the vote to ALL Americans, regardless of race. And on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12th, 1909, African-American Republicans and women’s suffragists, Ida Wells and Mary Terrel co-founded the NAACP. It was through this organization that complete freedom was afforded many African-Americans after the victories in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 as well as integration of the armed forces in 1948, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This Presidents Day, February 20th, we not only celebrate the birthdays of three of our most revered presidents (whose birthdays are actually in this month), Presidents Reagan, Washington, and Lincoln, but we also recognize the everyday citizens who rose up and fought for what they believed our nation is founded upon Freedom and Liberty for All!