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Heritage Months & Observances
What Are Heritage Months?
In the United States, Heritage Months are periods within the year that are designated to celebrate and acknowledge various ethnic and marginalized groups. These are times not only to celebrate, but also to educate others on various groups’ histories and contributions to American History. These are important times that help us to understand some of our own cultures and identities, as well as others.
Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15)
The month of September, and part of October, is a time to celebrate Hispanic culture. This time of year is significant because the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all received their independence on September 15. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18. At 55.6 million, people of Hispanic origin are the largest ethnic or racial minority in the U.S. (17.6% of the total population).
See Hispanic Heritage Month: How Hispanics Are Defining and Redefining America on Huffpost to learn more.
LGBTQ+ Heritage Month
Beginning in 1994, the month of October was not just about candy and fun, but also about celebrating LGBTQ+ heritage. The month of October is dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and diverse identities/sexualities history as well as the history of LGBTQ+ rights. During this time, revolutionary icons, events and contributions made by the LGBTQ+ community are recognized and celebrated.
National Coming Out Day (October 11)
This holiday coincides with the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and stemmed from the idea that the most basic, yet powerful, tool the LGBTQ+ community has is coming out, and coming out could lead to more support for its members.
Celebrate National Coming Out Day with HRC!—visit the Human Rights Campaign site to learn more.
Native American Heritage Month
November is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native and indigenous people. This month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native and indgenous people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.
See Native American Heritage Month on National Congress of American Indians to learn more.
Trans Awareness Week (November 13–19)
For much of history the trans community has struggled to gained visibility and voice within society, but to help turn the tides of history, November 13–19 has been dedicated to trans awareness. This week is a chance for citizens to aid in the fight to increase visibility of the trans and gender non-conforming community. The purpose of this week is to improve the climate of settings such as school, the workplace, and everyday interactions by educating the public and addressing challenges of prejudice, discrimination and violence against the trans community. The week culminates with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 to pay tribute to trans people who lost their lives as a result of violence and bias.
See Trans Awareness Week on GLAAD to learn more.
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African American Heritage Month
African American Heritage Month actually began as one week in February that began in 1926. This week of recognition was expanded to a month in 1976 and President Gerald R. Ford believed it was the opportune time for America’s people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Learn more about African American History Month »
Women’s Heritage Month
Originating in California, Women’s Heritage Month is dedicated to the observance of women’s contribution to history, culture and society. In the United States, this is has been celebrated in the month of March since 1987. Women’s Heritage month originated as a weeklong observance, but now is the entire month of March which includes an International Women’s day on March 8.
See Women’s History Month on The History Channel for more information.
Arab American Heritage Month
Arab American Heritage Month, observed in April, marks a time to reflect on the contributions Arab Americans have made to the U.S. and the diverse group of people who make up the nation’s Middle Eastern population.
Visit ThoughtCo to learn more about Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month.
Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month
Beginning May 1979, Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month works to recognize Asians and Pacific Islanders within the United States. Asian/Pacific is an umbrella term that includes all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
Learn more about Asian/Pacific Heritage Month »
Jewish American Heritage Month
In April of 2006, President George W. Bush declared May would be Jewish American Heritage Month. This declaration came from fervent efforts of Jewish community leaders to recognize the 350+ year history of Jewish contributions to American culture. When resolutions to recognize this community moved to the House of Representatives (December 2005) and later to the Senate (February 2006), they were passed unanimously. The Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition, created in March 2007, spearheads the implementation and execution of the annual celebration that occurs every May.
Learn more about Jewish American Heritage Month »
LGBTQ+ Pride Month
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning and diverse identites/sexualities pride month (LGBTQ+Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ+ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
The Library of Congress provides more information about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month.
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