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Special Observance Programs

Special Emphasis Programs help to enhance employment efforts for those who are disadvantaged (minorities, women, and people with disabilities). It provides cultural awareness in our place of employment, in our schools, and in our communities. Observances create an opportunity to bring people together with the intent to educate, celebrate contributions, and to work towards a future that is inclusive of all people.


Observances contribute to diversity by serving as a road-map to a better understanding of our history. Understanding where we all come from helps us to form respectful relationships that result in new ideas and innovation.

Most of the observances listed here were established through a number of Congressional efforts, Bills, Public Laws, and Presidential Proclamations. Federal agencies are required by law to have Special Emphasis Programs that focus on Hispanic Employment, Federal Women's Program, and People with Disabilities Program. Organizations can also add to these observances by creating their own special observance.

January: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of January. It is a time to remember and celebrate the work, accomplishments and life of the Civil Rights Leader.

February: Black History Month
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

March: Women's History Month
Women's History Month it celebrated during the month of March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It is a time to remember and celebrate the contribution's women have made to our culture and history. 

March: Irish American Heritage Month
The US Congress designated March as Irish American Heritage Month in 1991 with the President of the United States issuing a proclamation each year since 1991 as a way of honoring the achievements and contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants living in the United States.

April: Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Each year during the month of April, state, territory, tribal and community-based organizations, rape crises centers, government agencies, businesses, campuses and individuals plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts. 

April: Holocaust Days of Remembrance
The United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. Each year state and local governments, military bases, workplaces, schools, religious organizations, and civic organizations host observances and remembrance activities in their communities. These events can occur during the Week of Remembrance, which runs from the Sunday before Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) through the following Sunday.

May: Asian American and Pacific Islander Month
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month takes place in the month of May. It celebrates the history, culture and traditions of Asian Americans.

June: LGBT Pride Month
The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world.

August: Women's Equality Day
Women's Equality Day is celebrated in the United States on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.

September: Suicide Prevention Month
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. The month is used to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help.

September: National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sep 15 - Oct 15)
National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402. 

October: National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month was declared in 1988 by the United States Congress for the month of October to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.

October: Italian American Heritage and Culture Month
Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month is celebrated by proclamation of the President and Congress in the United States to honor the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States. Events are held throughout the month of October to celebrate and educate the public about Italian-American history and culture.

October: Polish American Heritage Month
Polish American Heritage Month is an annual event celebrated in October by Polish American communities to remember when the first Polish settlers came to Jamestown, Virginia, and to celebrate the contributions of Polish immigrants and their descendants living in the United States.

October: German American Day
German American Day is a holiday in the United States, observed annually on October 6. It celebrates German-American heritage and commemorates the founding of Germantown, Pennsylvania which is now part of Philadelphia. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October 6 as German-American Day to remember and celebrate the 300th anniversary of German immigration and culture in the United States.

November: Native American Indian Heritage Month
On August 3, 1990, President of the United States George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month, thereafter commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month. 

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