Black History Month Events


by staff, 01/29/2013

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New York City is rich with African-American history. NYC was once home to Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes; more recently it has been the home of the Reverend Al Sharpton, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was here that Billie Holiday first sang the civil-rights anthem “Strange Fruit” in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1939, and where the government’s first African-American secretary of state, Colin Powell, was born. The City’s cultural and historic sites are extensive, including iconic jazz clubs like Blue Note, performance venues like the Apollo Theater and institutions like The Studio Museum. Honor Black history this February throughout New York City with a crop of events, including exhibitions, live music performances, film screenings and more. Read on for more information.

February 2
Fugitive Art & Fugitive Testimony: Slave Narratives Then and Now at Morris-Jumel Mansion
Slave narratives of the 19th century told the story of enslavement and the desire for freedom. Professor Janet Neary discusses their influence over contemporary artwork and writing. 

February 2
Harlem Gospel Choir at David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center 
As part of the Atrium's new Meet the Artist Saturdays series, Lincoln Center presents the Harlem Gospel Choir with an interactive performance in honor of Black History Month. Seating is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

February 2
Target First Saturdays: African Innovations at the Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum kicks off Black History Month with a night of African- themed performances, discussions and screenings. Titled African Innovations, the event begins with a performance by Afro-beat musician Kaïssa, originally from Cameroon, and continues with dialogues and talks. Associate curator Kevin D. Dumouchelle will speak about the institution's long-term exhibition, of the same name as the event, and writer Chinelo Achebe-Ejueyitche will chat about Things Fall Apart, the seminal novel written by her father, Chinua Achebe. As the evening progresses, museumgoers can attend a screening of a short documentary, a lively African music/reggae performance, a sculpture-making session and a fashion showcase that presents African-inspired garments, among other happenings. Arrive at the museum early, since some activities require tickets and lines often form 30 minutes prior to ticket distribution.

February 3
Words are Freedom: The Confessions of Nat Turner at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library 
During the summer of 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia, Nat Turner, believing he was on a mission from God, led approximately 70 slaves in a revolt and quest for freedom. The group killed 57 whites before being stopped. Numerous blacks were killed in retaliation, and Turner was captured six weeks later. The Confessions of Nat Turner is based on Turner's jail-cell account of the insurrection, which he shared with lawyer Thomas Gray days before he was hanged. Rutgers professor Sterling L. Bland Jr. will host a discussion about Gray's published account of the confession, which author William Styron later used for his fictionalized, and controversial, Pulitzer Prize‒winning account of the rebellion, written in 1967.

February 16
Film and Discussion: The Prep School Negro at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library
Filmmaker André Robert Lee’s documentary details his experiences in a prestigious and predominately white preparatory school in Philadelphia. Lee will be on hand to discuss the film following the screening. 

February 17
Words are Freedom: Nightjohn at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library
Based on the novel Nightjohn, this film follows Sarny, a young female slave who is secretly taught to read and write by Nightjohn, a former slave who travels back to the pre–Civil War South to help others read and write.

February 18–23
Apollo Club Harlem at the Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theater transforms its interior to resemble one of the many Harlem clubs of the 1930s and '40s, and highlights the Apollo's diverse musical legacy. Performers include Grammy Award–winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, rising jazz musician Cécile McLorin Salvant and street dancer Storyboard P. 

February 19
Lincoln, Douglass and the US Colored Troops in Action at the New-York Historical Society
Lincoln historian Harold Holzer moderates this panel, which discusses the contributions, sacrifices and challenges of the Union soldiers who were recruited under the Emancipation Proclamation.

February 21
Exhibition Tour: Ashé to Amen at the Museum of Biblical Art
Led by Dr. Patricia C. Pongracz, this tour allows visitors an inside look at Ashé to Amen, which examines the role of religion and the Bible and how both were represented in African-American art. 

February 22
perFOREmance / february at The Studio Museum in Harlem
Decked out in a full-body silver latex jumpsuit, artist Jacolby Satterwhite dances and poses for several hours—an abstract complement to his installation Reifying Desire on display in Fore

February 23 
Cemetery Records: A Key for Your Genealogy Research at Woodlawn Cemetery
Jazz great Miles Davis, philanthropist Madam C.J. Walker and famed poets Countee Cullen and Lionel Hampton are all buried at The Woodlawn Cemetery. The famous cemetery will open its burial and memorial records so visitors can trace their own African-American and Afto-Carribean heritage. Meet in the Jerome Building of The Woodlawn Cemetery before 11am. Maps will be provided for self-guided tours of the grounds. 

February 26 
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement at the New-York Historical Society
One of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s first moments in the national spotlight was on the first night of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, when he was a 26-year-old Baptist pastor. His speech that evening made history. Join Taylor Branch and Bob Herbert in a discussion about King's life and key moments in the history of Civil Rights. 

February 28 
Black History Month Illustrated Talk at the American Folk Art Museum 
In connection with Ashé to Amen at the Museum of Biblical Art, the Folk Art Museum presents an evening with curator emerita Lee Kogan, who will speak about self-taught artists William Edmondson, Bessie Harvey and Clementine Hunter, whose works are featured in the exhibition. 

Through March 3
Show Way
at Vital Theatre Company 
The Vital Theatre Company on Manhattan’s Upper West Side presents this touching story about an 11-year-old African-American girl named Toshi Georgiana. While searching for a lost family heirloom, Toshi learns the significant history of the women that came generations before her—who were everyone from slaves to civil rights champions. Shows are performed every Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 1pm and are recommended for children ages 6 and up. 

Through March 10
Fore at The Studio Museum in Harlem
Fore follows Freestyle (2001), Frequency (2005–2006) and Flow (2008) in the museum's "F" series, a non-thematic group exhibition featuring nearly 30 artists of African descent living and working in the United States. Many of the works in this exhibition, which features artists including Kevin Beasley, Caitlin Cherry, Abigail DeVille, Yashua Klos and Taisha Paggett, reflect the cultural and social changes over the last few years. Performances, screenings, lectures and other public programming accompany the exhibition.

Through May 5
The Dream Continues: Photographs of Martin Luther King Murals by Vergara at the New-York Historical Society
The murals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose existence Camilo Vergara has documented since the 1970s, are located in places such as auto repair shops, fast food restaurants, on city streets and in alleyways. These informal portraits capture the perception of King in specific cities and retain qualities of the local neighborhood. 

Through May 26
Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed at the American Folk Art Museum
William Matthew Prior was one of the first artists who worked on a sliding scale, allowing for less well-to-do clients to purchase his works. This exhibition, which includes 40 of his paintings that date back to between 1824 and 1856, includes both nuanced, modeled portraits and the "flat pictures" most often associated with folk art. His abolitionist work—and willingness to work on a sliding scale—also led to a significant body of work of free, middle-class African-Americans. 

Through May 26
Ashé to Amen: African-Americans and Biblical Imagery at the Museum of Biblical Art
This exhibition emphasizes the role of religion and the Bible and how both were represented in African-American art. While some of the art dates from the 19th and 20th centuries, the works reflect the experiences of the Middle Passage and slavery. 

Through June 8
Apollo Music Café at the Apollo Theater
The third season of the Apollo Music Cafe highlights performers in all genres in the Apollo's intimate Soundstage. Artists performing this season include Rebecca Naomi Jones, Sofia Rei, Navegante and Maya Azucena. 

Through June 30
Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967 at The Studio Museum in Harlem
This exhibition honors late artist and photojournalist Gordon Parks, who would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. The exhibition features black-and-white photos of the Fontenelle family, whose lives Parks documented as part of a photo essay on poverty for Life in 1968. 

For more Black History Month events, visit

related venues/(8)

  1. 1
    The Studio Museum in Harlem
    144 W. 125th St.
    Manhattan – Harlem
    NY 10027
  2. 2
    Morris-Jumel Mansion
    65 Jumel Terr.
    Manhattan – Washington Heights
    NY 10032
  3. 3
    Apollo Theater
    253 W. 125th St.
    Manhattan – Harlem
    NY 10027
  1. 4
    David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
    Broadway at 62nd St.
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
    NY 10023
  2. 5
    The New-York Historical Society
    170 Central Park West
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
    NY 10024
  3. 6
    American Folk Art Museum
    2 Lincoln Square
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
    NY 10023
  1. 7
    Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, Youth Wing
    Grand Army Plaza
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238
  2. 8
    Brooklyn Museum
    200 Eastern Parkway
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11238

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