Throughout the month of February, we recognize the achievements of remarkable African American men and women, including many great leaders here in Iowa. This month provides an important opportunity to commemorate the contributions made to our country by these brave men and women, and to rededicate ourselves to making our nation more just and equal for everyone. Black Iowans have played an important part in shaping nearly every aspect of our society and Iowans have always been proud of our state’s history of leading the way in advancing civil rights. For example, between 1836 and 1860, African Americans settled in Iowa seeking a friendly and more tolerant place to live, often settling along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. In 1846, Iowa officially became a state and entered the Union as the first free state west of the Mississippi River. As we reflect on the long history of African Americans and their struggle for freedom and equality, we must also take the time to commemorate the many accomplished individuals from our great state of Iowa. In the early 1920s, J. Herman Banning tried to enter aviation school to get his pilot’s license in Illinois where no school would admit him because of his race. In order to fully realize his dreams, Herman moved to Ames to attend Iowa State College and would travel to Des Moines where he took lessons from Ray Fisher. Banning would become the first black American to receive a pilot's license from the government - number 1324. Born in 1938 in Centerville, Simon Estes is one of the world’s greatest living musicians. Estes is the son of a coal-miner and attended the University of Iowa where he studied vocal music. He is a classically trained opera singer who has performed all over the world, including for six Presidents and at international events honoring figures like Nelson Mandela. Estes is now the head of the Simon Estes Foundation and created the Iowa Students Care program that encourages Iowa students to help eliminate malaria in Africa by raising money to buy bed nets for African children. Iowans like Simon Estes and Herman Banning have been leaders in the struggle for equality and have made our state a better and more just place to live. This past Congress, I joined with many of my colleagues in the House of Representatives to introduce a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the great civil rights activists who marched on Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the final Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965. I was proud to see this bill signed into law, and I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that those who have contributed so much to our history receive the recognition they deserve. I am proud to be an Iowan and I invite you to join me in commemorating the great achievements of black men and women here in our great state and across the United States. As we have done in the past, it is my hope that Iowans will come together and continue the fight for equality for all our people. Sincerely,  Dave Loebsack Iowa's Second District

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