White House Celebrates Descendants of Civil Rights Leaders for Black History Month

By Joy Young, Howard University News Service
Special to The Truth

More than 100 descendants of civil rights trailblazers gathered Feb. 13 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

They had gathered on Feb. 13 for Descendants’ Day, part of the Biden-Harris administration’s celebration of Black History Month.

Among them were family members of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman.

Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed the descendants.

“There’s so much happening in our country and in the world right now that I think challenges us all to ask, ‘What kind of country do we want to live in?’” Harris said. “And in order to adequately answer that question, I think it is imperative to understand where we are and came from.”

Representative Terri Sewell said the descendant’s efforts to uphold the work of those who came before them.

“Each generation must fight to preserve the progress of the past and to advance it,” Sewell said. “So to the families here today, we say thank you for the perseverance, the personal sacrifice, and the tireless work to preserve and protect the work of your ancestors,” she said.

Stephen K. Benjamin, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, followed shortly after to recap the initiatives of the Biden-Harris administration.

He highlighted the administration’s accomplishments of providing an estimated 5.5 million Black households with affordable internet, increasing healthcare coverage for African Americans by nearly 50 percent, and pioneering an executive order to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Kenneth B. Morris, a descendant of both Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, was the final speaker, emphasizing the power that descendants have to foster collaboration that could help tackle modern problems.

“This historic event marks the beginning of coalescing the descendants’ families and like-minded leaders and organizations to catalyze transformative positive societal change amongst the most significant challenges faced by our country,” Morris said. “As Fredrick Douglas said, without struggle, there is no progress.

“As descendants, we have the responsibility to finish what our ancestors started.”

Rodericka Applewhaite, director of Black media at the White House, said the request to gather at the White House was presented to the Office of Public Engagement for present foundations to share initiatives to collaborate with the White House.

The Descendants’ Day event is one of many activities on the weekend itinerary for the family members of the iconic figures, according to NBC News.

NBC News reported that the invitees will visit the Lincoln Memorial, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol. There will also be opportunities for group discussions and collaborative dialogue.