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Why Black History Month is important to me


American Family Vice President Candy Embray shares why it’s important to celebrate Black History Month and what this month means to her.

Candy EmbrayI remember that February in 1976 when President Gerald Ford expanded the original Black History Week to Black History Month.

President Ford said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Februarys suddenly were filled with church, school and community observance programs. There were decorated bulletin boards, celebratory dinners and the other traditions we’ve established as we celebrate Black History Month each year.

February is a time for us to come together. A time to celebrate a history rich with the accomplishments of so many African-Americans. A time to marvel at what our ancestors would think if they were here today.

I think of my parents and all they experienced growing up in Missouri in the ‘40s and ‘50s. 

I struggle to process what it must have been like for them to attend segregated schools. Schools where they were forced to learn from ragged textbooks handed down from white schools.

Or, what it was like for them to use “colored only” public restrooms and water fountains.

Or, to sit in the balcony at the local movie theater or at the counter at the drug store restaurant.

Despite being treated as second-class citizens and the constant reminders of what they couldn’t do, I still heard them talk of how the trials made them stronger. And more determined to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that would eventually become their reality.

I smile when I hear them share stories of the forever friendships formed in that segregated school, in those theaters and at those counters.

During this month of observance, I wonder. What if …

  • Harriet Tubman, known as the “Moses of her people,” hadn’t risked her life using the Underground Railroad to lead slaves to freedom?
  • There had been no Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to encourage us to have a dream? A dream that at the time must have seemed impossible.
  • Rosa Parks had not so bravely refused to give up her seat on that bus?
  • Barack Obama hadn’t had the audacity to think that he could be president?

I’m sure the world would be a different place. Yes, we’ve come a long way. But we still have a way to go.

I’m thankful February provides an opportunity for ALL communities to celebrate and acknowledge the history of the Black community. And, I’m so proud to celebrate Black History Month here at American Family.

American Family Insurance is celebrating Black History Month with employees in a number of ways including a screening and discussion of the film Milwaukee 53206 and an event called Power and Grace: Highlighting Black Women in our Society. 


About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents. Web; Facebook; Twitter