New York City has long been a center of African-American life in the United States. It’s where the Harlem Renaissance shook cultural norms, where Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and where Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. The City remains a beacon of diversity, so it’s no wonder that many institutions offer a strong lineup of Black History Month events.
Here are some of our picks for 2020, as well as tours you can take this month and throughout the year.
Harlem’s best known-venue kicks off Black History Month with two free events on February 1: Apollo Open House 2020: Celebration of Cool and a child-friendly afternoon of entertainment, Apollo Open House 2020: For the Cool Kids. The theater also features the Apollo Comedy Club (February 6), the Apollo Music Cafe (February 7 and 8), a concert by Dadju (February 16), Amateur Night (February 19) and a screening of the original Shaft, with Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber playing the score live (February 29).
The Arsenal Gallery
The photo exhibit Namesakes: African Americans in NYC Parks (through February 27) showcases some of the men and women who are honored in—and lend their names to—the City’s green spaces, from Marcus Garvey Park in Manhattan to Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn Historical Society’s celebration of Black History Month is highlighted by a screening of Always in Season, the story of Claudia Lacy’s battle for a federal inquiry into her son Lennon’s death (February 18), and a discussion with investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell, who helped crack four cold cases from the civil rights era involving the Klan (February 19).
Jamaica Performing Arts Center
Queens’ Jamaica Performing Arts Center marks Black History Month with Immigration Stories, which combines dance and spoken word (February 8); a classical tribute to Jessye Norman that features the piano-playing Altino Brothers and guest singers (February 15); an afternoon and evening of movies at the Black History Month Film Festival (February 22); and a conversation with choreographer Paige Stewart plus a performance by her Kingdom Dance Company (February 23). The month concludes with workshops and live drumming by the Fanike African Dance Troupe (February 29 and March 1).
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
In addition to current exhibition Subversion & The Art of Slavery Abolition (through July 31), this Harlem-based center has a full slate of events honoring Black History Month. Programs include a screening of Always in Season, directed by Jacqueline Olive (February 3); a Moth StorySLAM “Only in Harlem” edition (February 4); a Black Lives Matter Teen Conference (February 8); and the Harlem Chamber Players presenting music by Florence Price and George Walker and the poetry of Langston Hughes (February 13).
From January 31 through February 9, The African Company Presents: Richard III is on stage at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This original play by Carlyle Brown is inspired by the true story of the African Company, the nation's first black drama troupe that performed in NYC at its own theater on Bleecker and Mercer Streets. This backstage story, set in the early 1800s, is about the company putting on a production of Shakespeare's Richard III while a rival theater with a big star does the same.
Harlem Heritage Tours
Harlem Heritage Tours offers itineraries that capture the history of jazz, hip-hop, gospel and art in Harlem. Guides for these entertaining journeys were born and raised in the community, giving participants an insider’s perspective on the rich legacy and culture of the area. Participants can enjoy music, dine on delicious soul food and shop neighborhood stores.
Harlem Spirituals Tours
This company’s regular offerings include gospel-themed tours and ones combining soul food and jazz. You’ll get a new perspective on historic landmarks—including the original Cotton Club and the Apollo—important to Harlem’s musical legacy.
Hush Hip Hop Tours
Join Hush Tours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays for a four-hour journey through the Bronx and Harlem that highlights crucial sites in the history of hip-hop. Stops include the former home of genre pioneer DJ Kool Herc. Old-school MCs, among them Grandmaster Caz and Roxanne Shante, often lead or make guest appearances during the tours. Other days feature walks that focus on Brooklyn or just Harlem.
UN Black History Tours
The United Nations is offering a special Black History Month tour. Departing at 2:30pm each February weekday, the tour includes a visit to the Ark of Return, the UN’s permanent memorial to the victims of slavery.