Summer time! That means it’s time to check out Twanna’s curated list of holidays, awareness campaigns, and cultural celebrations taking place in July. Use the list to stay timely, and have fun learning about the wide variety of July days to remember.
Tuesday, July 2
Civil Rights Act signed into law (1964)
Did you know some civil rights leaders considered the 1964 Civil Rights Act to be a much-desired “second Emancipation Proclamation”? The Act outlawed discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, and religion in various settings. The types of discrimination covered:
- most public places,
- federal programs,
- schools, and
- unions and workplaces.
Birth of Sylvia Rivera (1951)
We think this day should be a national holiday! Born and raised in New York City, Rivera was instrumental to the gay rights movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. When she and fellow advocate — Marsha P. Johnson — founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), they helped homeless LGBTQIA youth. Rivera died in 2002; she and Johnson are being honored with a new monument in NYC. Visit the Sylvia Rivera Law Project to learn more about her life and work.
Thursday, July 4
The United Church of Christ voted to support same-sex marriage.
Cheers for religious entities that choose love over hate. In 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC) became the first major Protestant denomination to formally support marriage equality. In their official statement, the church affirmed equal marriage rights. They also discouraged government interference in marital relationships. The UCC’s marriage equality platform stands as part of their overall commitment to being an open and affirming denomination.
Saturday, July 6
Birth of Frida Kahlo (1907)
You probably know about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s appearance — and, perhaps, her controversial politics and contentious relationships. Her work often referenced her longstanding relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera. An ardent supporter of the Communist party, Kahlo hosted many exiled and threatened communist leaders at her home. — than her actual artwork. But did you know much of her work referenced her battle with chronic pain? The pain was a result of childhood polio and injuries sustained from a serious bus accident during her youth. Kahlo died in 1954, at the age of 47. Explore some of her work here.
Tuesday, July 9
14th Amendment to Constitution Ratified (1868)
The 14th Amendment is a significant piece of Reconstruction-era legislation. It gave all people who were born or naturalized in the United States the right to citizenship. This was true for people whether they were enslaved since birth, descendants of enslaved persons, or free people. The Amendment also established the rights to due process and equal protection under the laws. The rights have been used to support many civil rights cases, including:
- Brown v. Board of Education;
- the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (see July 2nd) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
- Loving v. Virginia; and
- Obergefell v. Hodges.
Thursday, July 11
World Population Day
Established by the United Nations in 1989, the goal of World Population Day is to “focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues.” The UN hopes to raise awareness of how reproductive health and rights, family planning, and gender equality affect the growing world population.
Friday, July 12
Birth of Malala Yousafzai (1997)
The year was 2012. Headlines around the world reported that 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban. The specifically targeted her because she advocated for girls to attend school. Since recovering from her injuries, Malala has become a world-renowned human rights activist, author, and sought-after speaker. In 2014, she and her father created the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring girls around the world have access to education. That same year, in recognition of her work, she made history as the youngest Nobel Laureate. She currently attends Oxford University.
Tuesday, July 16
Birth of Ida B. Wells (1862)
During a time when women were expected to be seen but not heard, journalist, civil rights activist, and speaker Ida B. Wells was an accomplished journalist. She wrote many articles on the effect of Jim Crow laws on the Black community. She also wrote several heavily researched pamphlets exposing truths behind lynchings and other anti-Black violence. Ensuring Black women’s participation in the political process was especially important to her, and she ran for a seat in the Illinois Senate. She helped found the NAACP, though it has been reported that she did not like the leadership and direction of the organization. Ida B. Wells died in 1931.
Thursday, July 18
Birth of Nelson Mandela (1918)
Born Rolihlahla Mandela, Nelson Mandela was a lawyer, a freedom fighter, a human rights activist, a Nobel Prize winner, a president, and ultimately, a global icon. He spent much of his life fighting against apartheid, eventually receiving a lifelong prison sentence for his advocacy. Mandela became the face of the anti-apartheid movement worldwide, and much of the world celebrated his release from jail in 1990. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, he was elected as South Africa’s first Black, democratically elected president the following year. He served one term, then created the Nelson Mandela and Mandela Rhodes Foundations. These foundations are dedicated to promoting dialogue around social justice issues and increasing African leadership capacity. Nelson Mandela died in 2013, at the age of 95.
Monday, July 22
Birth of Emma Lazarus (1849)
American poet Emma Lazarus is best known for her sonnet The New Colossus. The sonnet was influenced by the experiences of newly arrived Russian Jewish immigrants. In it, the Statue of Liberty is depicted as a welcoming symbol of opportunity for immigrants. The poem features the famous lines:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,”
It was written to raise money for the statue’s pedestal, which was not yet completed. The poem was an instant hit, published in The New York Times as well as another influential paper. After being “lost” for several years, in 1903 parts of The New Colossus were inscribed on a plaque and placed on the pedestal. The plaque now rests in an exhibit inside the statue’s pedestal. Here’s a bit of trivia for you — the Washington Post recently reported, “Lady Liberty was inspired by the end of the Civil War and emancipation. The connection to immigration came later.”
Wednesday, July 24
D.C. newspaper exposes the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
On this date in 1972, the Washington Star News newspaper broke a horrifying story. For context, 1972 was the year Gwyneth Paltrow was born; that’s really not that long ago. Here’s what happened — For 40 years, the government had conducted an unethical study on the effects of syphilis on 600+ Black men from rural Alabama. Known informally as the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” nearly 400 Black men living with the disease were denied treatment. While the unethical practices had not been secret, the study only became widely known when a whistleblower — upset by government inaction — leaked to a reporter. After widespread public outcry and lawsuits, participants and their families received a nearly $10M settlement. The government issued a formal apology for the study in 1997. Learn more about the study and its lingering effects on participants’ families.
Thursday, July 25
Birth of Maria Weston Chapman (1806)
We have another notable person for your radar: writer and abolitionist Maria Weston Chapman. She was introduced to the anti-slavery movement by her husband Henry Chapman, then she dedicated the rest of her life to abolition efforts. A prominent fundraiser for anti-slavery organizations in New England, she also helped found the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. Chapman also worked closely with prominent abolitionist William Garrison, editing his publication The Liberator. She also wrote and edited several other books, pamphlets, and anthologies, many focusing on slavery and women’s rights. She died on July 12, 1885.
Friday, July 26
The Americans with Disability Act is signed.
On this day in 1990 — 17 years after the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 —Congress passed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The purpose of the ADA is to prevent discrimination against disabled people in workplaces, transportation, housing, public spaces, and other public accommodations. The law covers short-lived and permanent mental and physical disabilities. The ADA was eventually bolstered by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. This Act expanded the definition of “disability” and required all employers with 15+ people to comply with prevailing anti-discrimination laws.