February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and recognizing their role in U.S. history. There are a ton of ways to honor Black History Month in Philadelphia and nearby, so we’ve put a list together of some of the highlights:
Visit an Exhibit
African American History Month at The National Constitution Center – February 2020
February 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which said the right to vote could not be denied based on race. The National Constitution Center will honor that milestone all month long with special educational programs and performances in conjunction with the new Civil War and Reconstruction exhibit, including “The Road to Freedom” show, the “Four Harriets” program, and theatrical performances of Frances E. W. Harper: The Great Problem to Be Solved and FOURTEEN. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour of the museum’s The Story of We the People exhibit to discover key milestones in African American history, and then test their knowledge at the Center’s giant game board activity. Find out more and buy tickets here.
Ongoing Events at the African American Museum in Philadelphia
The African American Museum is a natural choice to visit during Black History Month. View the permanent display “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876” or attend one of the special programs happening this month. Some of these include “Black Joy and Resistance,” “Meditations on Black Masculinity,” or “Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation.” Click here for the calendar of events.
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THURSDAY! @waheedpix returns to AAMP to discuss her stunning book @blackjoyandresistance! Waheed will be joined by Rhea Combs of @nmaahc for an incredible conversation on the inherent joy and resilience of Black communities and cultures across the diaspora. FREE with RSVP! Learn more at aampmuseum.org.
Building on the Dream: From Africa to Bucks County – now through April 7 at the Bucks County Visitor Center
The African American Museum of Bucks County is sponsoring an exhibit that pays tribute to the lives, culture, accomplishments and contributions of African Americans in Bucks County. The exhibit features a timeline of events in African American history in Pennsylvania, the history of the Underground Railroad in Bucks County, and the role of Bucks County AME churches in helping African Americans transition from slavery to freedom.
The exhibit also includes a speaker series. While the first in the series already occurred on February 2, you can still attend the final two. “Untold Stories of African American Civil War Soldiers buried at Slate Hill Cemetery” takes places on March 15. “Contributions of African Americans from Bucks County during the Civil War Era” is on April 5.
CultureFest! African & Diasporic Cultures Celebration – February 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Penn Museum
In a reunion of contemporary and traditional cultural practices across Africa and the African Diaspora, gather with family and friends to explore cultural connections. Hosted in partnership with Artvolution, experience the culture of Africa and the African Diaspora through art-making, mask-making, live performances, drumming and other musical demonstrations, a storytelling circle, workshops for all ages, and an African-inspired marketplace.
“Awakened in You: The Collection of Dr. Constance Clayton” – February 21 through July 12 at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
This new exhibit displays more than 75 works by African American artists from the collection of Dr. Constance E. Clayton, an educator and arts advocate. The collection features mostly paintings and works on paper, and also include sculptures by Richmond Barthé and Augusta Savage.
See a Show
Quintessence Theatre Group’s “Rachel” – now through February 23 at The Sedgwick Theater
Angelina Weld Grimke’s American classic depicts an African-American family at the turn of the 20th century striving to find life, liberty, and happiness in a Northern city. Haunted by her family’s Southern past, Rachel, an ambitious high-school graduate, struggles to find a vocation, love and hope in the face of systemic racism, ultimately choosing to reject marriage and motherhood. Inspired by the writing of Chekhov, Grimke’s Rachel opened in New York on April 25, 1917, and was the first play by an African-American author with an all-black cast to be performed before an integrated audience.
Get tickets here.
Arden Theatre Company’s “My General Tubman” – now through March 15
My General Tubman is a beautiful and exciting new play about the complex journey of Harriet Tubman and the impact she continues to have today. This is a world premiere by acclaimed Philadelphia author Lorene Cary.
Purchase tickets here.
“Underground Railroad & The Freedom Fighters” – February 13 at 12:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Bucks County Community College
This historical reenactment presentation features; Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, and William Still. Learn about America’s abolitionists, Quakers, free African Americans, and escaped slaves…many who worked together for this fight for freedom regarding one of the most important milestones of America’s history!
Get tickets at this link.
The Philly Pops “Aretha: Respect” – February 14 through February 16 at the Kimmel Center
The Philly POPS welcomes back conductor Byron Stripling as they pay R-E-S-P-E-C-T with the dynamic combination of Broadway Powerhouse Capathia Jenkins and Grammy-Nominated R&B Singer Ryan Shaw. It’s “Chain of Fools,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Amazing Grace,” “Respect,” and more!
Get tickets here.
“Voices of Hope Black History Month Celebration” – February 20 at 6 p.m. at the Please Touch Museum
The free Voices of Hope Black History Month Celebration features performances by PHILADANCO, Philadelphia Heritage Chorale, Monique Brooks Roberts, Sister Cities Girlchoir and CAPA String Quartet. Registration is required for tickets to the event, which takes place at the Please Touch Museum. Register here.
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Mark your calendars! #VoicesOfHope: A Black History Month Celebration returns this year on February 20 at @pleasetouchmuseum, presented by @nemourschildrens. Join us for a night of magical artistic performances as we honor influential Philadelphians in the health and wellness field. To RSVP, visit MannCenter.org/VoicesOfHope.
Sweet Honey in the Rock – February 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Bucks County Community College
A powerful and unique concert entity that fuses the elastic 360 degree possibilities of the human voice with a theatrical flair that keeps avid audiences returning. Kinetic, cultured and connected, this internationally renowned Grammy Award® nominated female acappella vocal quartet has a history of over four decades of distinguished service. They have created positive, loving, and socially conscious message music that matters as it pertains to spiritual fortification, and consistently taken an activist stance toward making this planet a better place for all in which to live.
Get tickets here.
Read a Book (& More) at the Library
Several branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia are hosting special events and programming in honor of Black History Month. Look for film screenings with discussion, Black History quizzo, themed storytimes, and more. Click here for event dates and details.
If you want some guidance on choosing books to read, Bucks County Free Library has put together several lists of suggested reading during Black History Month. These lists are divided by category and age group, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.