Since 1976, the United States has set aside February as Black History Month. Here’s where to take part in the celebration of African American history, culture and heritage in the Philadelphia area.
Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit
Jan. 28 – Apr. 15, 2012
Check out this retrospective of the pioneering African American artist’s work at PAFA. The exhibit includes more than 100 pieces of Tanner’s art, including the two known sculptures he created, plus twelve paintings that have never before been seen in a Tanner retrospective.
Imagine Africa with the Penn Museum
Through Sept. 16, 2012
This year-long exhibit is in collaboration with a number of local community organizations and features a series of Africa-inspired events. Peruse the museum’s array of African artifacts, or attend a music, dance and storytelling event on Feb. 18. On Feb. 22, Voices of Africa brings traditional African and African-American songs, gospel and message music, and inspirational rhythms. Finally, on Feb. 28, there will be a pay-what-you-wish contemporary South African performance by Dr. Carol Muller, a professor of ethnomusicology.
National Constitution Center
Take a look into the lives of Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, Jackie Robinson and other extraordinary African-American historical figures at this month-long series at the NCC. Plus, Once Upon A Nation storytellers will tell the stories of early African-Americans each weekend at the Center.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP)
While the African American museum’s primary focus is, of course, the history and legacy of African Americans, they have some special events planned for February. On February 4th and 11th, kids can draw inspiration from the story of Robert Smalls—a slave who became a Civil War hero and then a Congressman—and create their own superheroes during the Outlined in Black: Creating Superheroes event.
Then, on February 19th, visitors can find out more about their family tree during the Introduction to Black Genealogy workshop, and finally, on February 25, kids can listen as storyteller, artist and historical re-enactor Carla Wiley presents the book Running the Road to ABC.
James Forten on Display
Independence Seaport Museum
Discover the life and achievements of African-American businessman and abolitionist James Forten, who owned his own sail-making company in post-Revolutionary War Philly.
American Slavery: Bringing Wider Perspectives to Museum Interpretation
Philadelphia Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States
The AAMP, Independence National Park and the Friends of Independence Park are teaming up for a day dedicated to African-American History. Guest speakers, panelists and representatives from the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture, The President’s House, Mount Vernon, Cliveden and more will gather to discuss the topic of slavery in a free country.
Through March 18th
This play is a response to the 1959 classic “A Raisin in the Sun” and tells the story of the evolution of a community throughout five decades.
Branch: A Baseball Legend
Society Hill Playhouse
Feb. 3 – 26
Get taken in by the story of Branch Rickey, who recalls breaking baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson in 1947.
The Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Collection
Departing from AAMP
701 Arch St
Download this free, self-guided audio tour that spotlights 50 of the city’s many murals honoring themes, figures and significant events in African American history. There will also be a trolley tour on the last Saturday of the month, which is followed by a free workshop at the AAMP for further exploration into the tour’s topics.
Black History at the Art Sanctuary
The Art Sanctuary has a number of events scheduled for Black History Month, including the free Storytelling Circle—led by African American storyteller Denise Valentine—on Feb. 3rd. Then, on Feb. 11th, guests can bring their own musical instruments to play and share for the Women Behind the Guitar Strings and Roots Folklore program, and finally, the Art Sanctuary hosts its monthly Live Music Showcase (Feb. 24th), which will feature local songstress Karen Shaw.
A Raisin in the Sun
Feb. 24th & 25th
The African American Awareness Society of Chestnut Hill College presents the 1959 classic “A Raisin in the Sun.” Proceeds from the performance will go towards Lupus awareness.
The 20th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair
The Community College of Philadelphia
Over 20 internationally known authors and illustrators will participate in CCP’s 20th Annual African American Book Fair, taking place from 1 – 3 p.m. on Feb. 4th. The event also includes games, prizes and giveaways.
Jazz On Vine: Jimi Hendrix’s Birthday
Celebrate Jimi Hendrix’s 70th birthday with guitarist and composer David “Fuze” Fiuczynski and The Planet MicroJam Institute ensemble, plus special guest Freedom Bremmer.
Feb.15 – 18
The Kimmel Center’s American Theater Arts for Youth celebrates the heritage and culture of African Americans with five musical performances. And during Bash the Trash: African Folktales on Feb. 18th, guests can use recycled materials to build their own musical instruments while listening to African folktales.
Black History Events at the Philadelphia Ethical Society
Philadelphia Ethical Society
The Philadelphia Ethical Society has three African American history events planned for February. First, join performing artist Karen Warrington for “The Importance of Cultural Identity for African Americans,” which will explore the complex histories, culture, religions and languages that comprise the history of Blacks in America on Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. On Feb. 19, there is “Is It Time for Reparations?”, featuring author and activist Ron Peden, who will discuss the racial divide through reparations as a critical path forward for the country to come together. Finally, on Feb. 26, stop by for “Langston Hughes,” a program that will focus on the African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist.
Black History Musical Extravaganza
Free Library of Philadelphia – Walnut Street West Branch
The Free Library hosts a celebration of African American music with works from various artists. The program starts at 6 p.m.
Freedom Bound: African American Women in 18th and 19th Century Philadelphia
Learn about the lives and struggles of African American women in the city during bygone eras in history, then take a post-discussion tour of Stenton.
An Evening of African American Music
Drexel University’s Mandell Theater
Celebrate African American musical heritage at this annual event, which features the Gospel Choir and Jazztet and starts at 5 p.m. Musical genres include jazz, blues, gospel, spirituals and more.
For additional events, click here.