Black History Month

Erin O'Hara

After 80 years, Black History Month is as meaningful as ever, urging us to remember the past while inspiring us to look forward to future progress. Honor black history this February in New York City, the first city in the United States to pass a law banning race-based housing discrimination, and where Billie Holiday first performed the civil-rights anthem "Strange Fruit," among many other triumphs. The City’s historical sites are wide-ranging, from the African Burial Ground National Monument in Lower Manhattan to the iconic jazz clubs uptown where legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington got their starts, and from the locations of civil-rights rallies and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Upper East Side apartment building where President Barack Obama lived as a Columbia University student. Cultural institutions are bringing out their best for this celebration, including exhibitions, live music performances, film series and much more. Don’t miss the opportunity to honor those who devoted their lives to the dream at these exceptional events all over the City. Keep checking back for more events as they continue to be added throughout the month.

Amateur Night at the Apollo

Apollo Theater, 7:30pm, $17–$27, 212-531-5305 or 212-307-7171,
Amateur Night is back at the Apollo for a new year of stiff competition. There are plenty of opportunities to be a member of the notoriously tough crowd this month, as there’s a performance every Wednesday night at 7:30pm. And don’t miss the Show Off round on February 24—it decides which new talents will move on to the Top Dog competition on May 12.

Tales From the Land of Gullah
Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 718-735-4400,
This exhibition, produced by the Children’s Museum of Houston, lets little ones explore the world of Gullah people—the ex-slaves who settled in the low country and islands of South Carolina and Georgia, maintaining their culture and language.

African-American Sculptures
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation,
In honor of the season, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has put together a comprehensive list of sculptures honoring African-American individuals or cultures. Many of these statues were also created by black artists. Create your own Black History Month tour by stopping by a number of these beautiful monuments.

Black History Month Films Series
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 212-491-2200,
Come to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for an array of films that will inspire and empower, playing all month long.

Through February 21
Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges

Museum of Jewish Heritage, 646-437-4200,

This exhibition tells the little-known tale of numerous Jewish professors who escaped from Nazi Germany and taught at historically black colleges in the South during the times of Jim Crow legislation. The exhibit draws correlations between the struggles faced by both groups.

Through February 28
Black History Month Tours

New York Transit Museum, 3pm, 718-694-1600,
Every Saturday and Sunday during Black History Month, the New York Transit Museum is leading free tours focusing on the contributions of African-Americans to transportation in New York City.

Through March 13
Sum Film by William Pope.L
Studio Museum in Harlem, 212-864-4500,
Eight-and-a-half hours of footage documenting William Pope.L’s recent interactive installation, The Black Factory, will be screened on the wall of the Studio Museum in Harlem throughout the month.

Through March 25
Lincoln and New York

New-York Historical Society, 212-873-3400,

See how New York shaped one of our most beloved presidents (and vice versa) with documents, photographs and other relics honoring Abraham Lincoln.

John Brown: The Abolitionist and His Legacy
New-York Historical Society, 212-873-3400,

This exhibition, arranged by the Gilder Lehrman Institute, explores one of the most controversial figures in American history through rare materials relating to his violent struggle to end slavery and his failed raid of the Harper’s Ferry arsenal.

Through March 28
Black Angels Over Tuskegee

St. Luke’s Theatre, $31.50–$56.50, 212-947-3499,
This Off-Broadway play is based on the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots in the US military, and their struggle against racism.

Through April 18
365 Days: 390 Years in the Making

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 212-491-2200,

This juxtaposition of two monumental exhibits is the embodiment of Black History Month: artist and children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney exhibits watercolor paintings depicting historic figures and events in black history, while Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer, displays behind-the-scenes photographs of President Barack Obama’s first year in office, from dinner with his family to a snowball fight with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. These two exhibitions viewed together give a glimpse of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

February 18
David Ruggles and the NYC Underground Railroad

New-York Historical Society, 6:30pm, $20, 212-873-3400,
Historians Graham Hodges and Eric Foner elaborate on the life of David Ruggles and his devotion to the abolitionist movement, sheltering 600 people, including Frederick Douglass, in his New York City home.

Black History Month Celebration
The Andrew Freedman House, 1125 Grand Concourse, 718-590-3522,
Salute Black History Month and enjoy some hors d’oeuvres at this special event at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, featuring a salute to community leaders, a special video presentation of "African Americans and American Politics" and entertainment by the Greater Faith Temple Ensemble.

Poetry @ SMH Featuring Cave Canem
Studio Museum in Harlem, 7pm, 212-864-4500,
The Cave Canem Foundation, a prominent organization devoted to cultivating and promoting black poetry, presents an evening of poems inspired by the Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition 30 Seconds Off an Inch.

African Film Festival Screening
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 3pm, 212-491-2200,
Enjoy this special Black History Month presentation from the people who bring you the African Film Festival, now in its 17th year at Lincoln Center.

Enter the Conversation: Gwen Ifill and Michele Norris with William F. Baker
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 8pm, $15, 212-316-7540,
Head to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine as these three renowned and respected journalists come together to discuss the issue of race in America.

February 18 and 22
American Girl, World Citizen: A Journey of Nina Simone

February 18, Gerald W. Lynch Theater, John Jay College/CUNY; February 22, Illinois Jacquet Performance Space; 7pm; 212-875-5474;
From music director Tamar-kali comes this tribute to the legendary Nina Simone in songs performed by several talented women, in collaboration with the Black Rock Coalition and CUNY.

February 18, 19, 27 and 28
From Africa to Gullah: A Culinary Journey

Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 11:30am–12:30pm, 718-735-4400,
Learn to make sesame–peanut butter balls, a Gullah treat, while discovering the connections between West African and Gullah foods. For kids age 6 and up.

February 19–21
Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday

The National Black Theater, 8pm (February 19–20) and 3pm (February 21),

Vanessa Rubin stars in Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday, presented by Jazzmobile and the National Black Touring Circuit. Stick around after the show for a special post-performance discussion.

February 20
American Songbook: Leslie Uggams: Uptown Downtown

The Allen Room, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Lincoln Center, 8:30pm and 10:30pm, $45–$95, 212-721-6500,
This presentation of Lincoln Center’s popular American Songbook series showcases the talent of Leslie Uggams, notable actress and singer.

From the Root to the Fruit
Museum of the City of New York, 3pm, 917-492-3395,
Embark on a journey through the long history of blues music and how it traveled from the Deep South to NYC, guided by Harlem’s Keith "The Captain" Gamble and his ensemble.

Living History Days: 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry
New-York Historical Society, 10am, 212-873-3400,
Discover what life was like for a Civil War soldier. At this Living History Day at the New-York Historical Society, reenactors discuss and re-create the experiences of soldiers serving in the 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry.

MetLife Early Learner Performance Series: David Pleasant/Now Griot
Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 1–1:30pm and 2–2:30pm, 718-735-4400,
The master percussionist presents Shout, Juba, and Jive!, a program incorporating music and movement in the Drumfolk tradition of the Sea Islands.

February 20 and 21
Telling Stories the Gullah Way

Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 11:30am–12:30pm, 718-735-4400,
Discover stories and beloved characters passed on by generations of the Gullah people, and create a storybook to take home. For kids age 6 and up.

February 20 and 27
Carnival Film Series

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 3pm, 212-491-2200,
This film series documents two famous Carnival celebrations, in Trinidad and Brazil.

Harlem One Stop Tour: Duke Ellington’s Harlem
Harlem (exact meeting location TBD), 10:30am, $25, 917-583-4109,
Explore Harlem with Harlem One Stop and see where the legendary Duke Ellington lived, worked and played in this energetic neighborhood.

February 21
The End of the Jews

Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2:30pm, $5, 646-437-4200,

Joan Morgan interviews best-selling author Adam Mansbach about his new book, The End of the Jews, which follows the story of two generations of Jews immersed in black culture.

"Father of Gospel Music" Concert
The Riverside Church, 3:30pm, $10, 212-870-6700,
Pay tribute to Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the "Father of Gospel Music," with this concert featuring vocalist, music historian and lecturer Tami Tyree and other guest artists.

February 22
Monk’s Move

Museum of the City of New York, 6pm, 917-492-3395,
The T.K. Blue Quartet pays tribute to jazz legend Thelonious Monk, playing a collection of his classics and some lesser-known tunes.

February 25

Walter Reade Theater, 6pm, advance tickets $25 (seniors, $22; students/members, $20), 212-340-1874,

ImageNation Cinema Foundation and Film Society of Lincoln Center present the New York premiere of RiseUp, an award-winning documentary about emerging Jamaican artists and the global influence of reggae. Come at 6pm for a reception and performance by Judah Tribe; the film screens at 7pm and is followed by a discussion with Luciano Blotta, the director.

The Mighty Third Rail
David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, 8:30pm, 212-875-5456,
Lincoln Center’s Target Free Thursdays presents The Mighty Third Rail, mixing hip-hop, beatbox, violin and bass, with poetry by Darian Dauchan and music by Curtis Stewart and Ian J. Baggette.

February 26
Harlem Opera Theatre Concert

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 7:30pm, $25, 212-491-2200,
Opera singers perform excerpts from Duke Ellington’s unfinished opera, Queenie Pie, about the Queen of Harlem and her search for eternal youth.

Price of the Ticket
Harlem Heritage Tourism & Cultural Center, 7pm, $10 suggested donation, 212-280-7888,
This documentary captures the life of James Baldwin, the legendary writer and civil-rights activist who fought against racial discrimination and homophobia.

February 27
Malcolm X Celebration

Harlem Heritage Tourism & Cultural Center, 1pm, 212-280-7888,
Celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X, the charismatic Muslim minister and civil-rights leader. The daylong celebration starts with a multimedia bus/walking tour ($45) and concludes with screenings of stock footage of Malcolm and a documentary on his life ($10 for both screenings).

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Taste of Harlem Tour
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