Cultural Heritage Month Celebrations


Cultural Heritage Months celebrate the customs, values and traditions of different cultures within the United States, examining the issues and struggles of different communities as well as affirming their contributions to American society. Here at The Beach, the Office of Multicultural Affairs works in collaboration with student groups, staff, faculty and the Long Beach community to host various culturally enriching and educational programs throughout the academic year.

Below you will find more information about the history of some of the nationally celebrated Cultural Heritage Months we celebrate at The Beach!

Note: Some heritage months are celebrated in a different month due to CSULB's academic calendar.

In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson instituted the first week-long celebration to raise awareness of African-Americans' contributions to history. Prior to this time, little information could be found regarding African-American history. Important achievements were left out of history books, and there was a general misconception that African-Americans had made little contribution to U.S. society. Fifty years later, the week became a month, and today, February is celebrated as African-American History Month. The month of February was chosen because it celebrates the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom dramatically affected the lives of African-Americans. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was a writer, lecturer, editor, and civil rights activist who escaped slavery at age 21 and went on to campaign for the abolition of slavery, establish a newspaper and hold the Office of Minister to Haiti. He was a major voice in the anti-slavery/civil rights movements of his time. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), as the sixteenth president of the United States, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, thereby declaring that all slaves within the Confederacy would be permanently freed. Each year, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, founded by Dr. Woodson, sets the theme for the month.

*Note: AAPI Heritage Month is nationally celebrated during the month of May.

The roots of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month can be traced back to 1976, when Jeanie Jew, president of the Organization of Chinese American Women, contacted government officials in response to the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in the U.S. bicentennial celebrations that same year. The observance began in 1979 as Asian Heritage Week, established by congressional proclamation. In May 1990, the holiday was expanded further when President George Bush signed a proclamation making it a month-long for that year. On October 23, 1992, Bush signed legislation designating May as the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen to commemorate two significant events in history: the first Japanese immigration to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 (Golden Spike Day). The diversity and common experiences of the many ethnic groups are celebrated during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with numerous community festivals as well as government-sponsored activities.

*Note: Latinx Heritage Month is nationally celebrated during September 15 through October 15.

Latinx Heritage Month honors the culture, heritage and contributions of Latinxs each year. The event began in 1968, when Congress deemed the week including September 15 and 16 as "National Hispanic Heritage Week" to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community. The dates were chosen to commemorate two key historical events: Independence Day, honoring the formal signing of the Act of Independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15, 1821), and Mexico's Independence Day, which denotes the beginning of the struggle against Spanish control (September 16, 1810). It was not until 1988 that the recognition was expanded to a month-long period, made to include El Dia de la Raza on October 12th, which celebrates the influences of the people who came after Christopher Columbus and the multicultural, multiethnic society that evolved as a result, Chile's Independence Day on September 18th (El Dieciocho), and Belize's Independence Day on September 21st. Each year a different theme for the month is selected and a poster is created to reflect that theme.

*Note: LGBTQ+ (Pride) is nationally celebrated during the month of June.

In recent years, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals did not have a specific month during which to celebrate and commemorate Pride Days in the United States. On June 11, 1999, President Clinton issued a proclamation designating June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In the spirit of honoring equality and freedom, the president said, "I encourage all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities that celebrate our diversity, and to remember throughout the year the gay and lesbian Americans whose many and varied contributions have enriched our national life." The most significant June event in the LGBTQ+ history was the Stonewall Inn Rebellion, a three-day protest in 1969 in New York City's Greenwich Village, during which patrons protested against unfair police discrimination and harassment. It marked the first time the LGBTQ+ community joined together to fight for its civil rights, earning national attention and gaining a foothold in the struggle for equality. This month is dedicated to appreciating the contributions and significance of the LGBTQ+ community, and applauding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender pride.

In response to an effort by many to gain a day of recognition for the great influence American Indians have had upon the U.S., Congress designated "Native American Awareness Week" in October of 1976. Yearly legislation was enacted to continue the tradition until August of 1990, when President Bush approved the designation of November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Each year, a similar proclamation is issued. President Clinton noted in 1996, "Throughout our history, American Indian and Alaska Native peoples have been an integral part of the American character. Against all odds, America's first peoples have endured, and they remain a vital cultural, political, social, and moral presence." November is an appropriate month for the celebration because it is traditionally a time when many American Indians hold fall harvest and world-renewal ceremonies, Pow Wows, dances, and various feasts. The holiday recognizes hundreds of different tribes, approximately 250 languages and celebrates the history, tradition and values of American Indians. "National American Indian Heritage Month" serves as a reminder of the positive effect Native peoples have had on the cultural development and growth of the U.S., as well as the struggles and challenges they have faced.