Throughout this month, the Navy joins the nation in celebrating the history and culture of African American and Black Sailors during National Black History Month.

The Navy has been encouraging participation in “heritage celebrations and special observances,” while Sailors and Navy commands have been asked to use this month to recognize “the exceptional and distinctive contributions and the unique histories and cultures that our African American and Black shipmates bring to our Navy,” a spokesperson said in a press release.

Black History month originated in 1915, when historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson, along with the association, initiated the first “Negro History Week” in February of 1926— and since 1976, every U.S. President has officially designated February National African American/Black History Month.

“The greatest strength in our Navy comes not from weapons but from the diversity of our people.” said Rear Adm. Stephen Evans, commander, Naval Service Training Command. “Every day, Sailors of diverse race, gender, religion, ideas, and background work together to accomplish the extraordinary.”

“African American and Black Sailors and civilians are an integral part of the One Navy Team. Nineteen percent of Navy’s enlisted force identifies as African American or Black, to include 17 percent of all senior and master chiefs, while seven percent of the officer force and four percent of all admirals identify as the same,” the Navy reports.

“A diverse workforce positions the Navy to operate successfully around the globe by bringing together Sailors and civilians with different ideas, experiences, perspectives, capabilities and skill sets. Integrating Sailors and civilians from diverse backgrounds into the force allows the Navy to recruit and retain the nation’s top talent from a wider pool of skilled personnel.”

The Navy reportedly partners with organizations like the National Naval Officers Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in support of its African American service members and civilians.

A complete educational presentation, including a downloadable educational poster on African American/Black History month, can be requested from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) by email at deomipa@us.af.mil.