Makola M. Abdullah, president of Virginia State University in Petersburg, will be the featured speaker at the annual Fort Lee African-American Black History Month Observance Feb. 21, 11:30 a.m., in the Lee Theater. Admission is free and all community members are invited.

Abdullah became the 14th president of VSU on Feb. 1, 2016. Prior to his appointment, he served as provost and senior vice president from 2013-2016 at Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, Fla. Earlier in his career, he was the provost and vice president for academic affairs from 2011-2013 at Florida Memorial University, Miami Gardens, Fla.; and dean and director of 1890 land grant programs from 2008-2011 at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Fla.

A Chicago native, the VSU president received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Howard University and his doctorate and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Northwestern University. He is the youngest African-American to receive a Ph.D. in engineering. 

The theme for the observance is “Honoring the Past, Securing the Future.” The program will be hosted by the Army Logistics University and Defense Contract Management Agency in partnership with the installation Equal Opportunity Office.

Also known as National African-American History Month, the annual observance celebrates achievements by African-Americans and is a time to recognize the central role they have played in United States history. The event’s roots go back to 1926 when it was first celebrated during the week of Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.

The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. Former President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

This year’s observance coincides with the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which gave African-American men the right to vote.  The amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, prohibits the government from denying or abridging a citizen’s right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the first African-American to serve in Congress. In 1870, Hiram Revels, a Mississippi Republican, completed a 1-year term in the Senate where he fought for justice and racial equality. During his lifetime, Revels served as a military chaplain, a minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a college administrator. 

The Fort Lee program also will include musical performances from the Virginia State University Gospel Chorale, a historical skit with Soldiers, static informational and historical displays, refreshments and more.

For questions, contact Staff Sgt. James Johnson at 804-765-8121 or james.m.johnson596.mil@mail.mil.