PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (February 24, 2015)--"There is no greater country than the United States of America, a country made great by its relatively young but rich history. But when we talk about the richness of our history, it's difficult to do so--at least for me--without also acknowledging the diversity of its people and their contributions to our nation," said Brig. Gen. Jason T. Evans, the guest speaker Feb. 23 at Picatinny Arsenal's observance of Black History Month.

"The achievements of African-Americans helped to shape our unique culture, maintain the world's most powerful military and transformed our politics and government," added Evans. "While there is still more work to be done, Black History Month is a model, it's a reminder why it's important to celebrate history."

Evans is the deputy commanding general for support at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In addition to his speech, the arsenal's observance included historical and pop culture trivia as well as a reading of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."

Black History Month began in 1926 and was founded by Carter G. Woodson. Originally the event lasted a week. But in 1976, the 100th anniversary of the United States, the week was extended to one month, allowing for more inclusion of activities and programs.

Woodson chose the second week in February because both President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist, were born in the month of February. Moreover, Woodson thought that these two men significantly improved the lives and social conditions of African Americans.

Each February, the United States Army honors the remarkable contributions of African American men and women in the building of the nation. The 2015 theme, selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture." This theme highlights the fact that over the past century, African American life, history, and culture have become major forces in the United States and the world.

The Army leadership has asked the entire Army family to publicly commemorate the significant contributions that continue to make the Army the premiere fighting force in the world. Throughout the year, the Army will celebrate and commemorate the diversity of the Army and leverage and draw strength from the rich diversity within the ranks by recognizing the critical role played by all in strengthening the nation's presence around the world.

America's Army is a world-class force, recruiting the best talent regardless of race or gender. The Army ensures the integration of diverse attributes, experiences and backgrounds in ways that enhance decision making and inspire high performance. The Army has benefited from the contributions of African American generals like Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Gen. Dennis Via and Major Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, to name a few.