Celebrate Black History Month in February

(Image: Detail from “The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture commemorates Black History Month 2011 with a variety of public programs, including a family sing-along, a film about the freedom riders of 1961 and a colloquium on the abolitionist movement. In addition, the exhibition “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey—Where Art and History Intersect” will remain on view in the NMAAHC Gallery at the National Museum of American History through May 1. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public, and no tickets are required. Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.

Washington Performing Arts Society Children of the Gospel Choir

Washington Performing Arts Society Children of the Gospel Choir

The celebration begins Feb. 5, at 2 and 3:30 p.m., with the “Family Freedom Song Sing-Along.” Part of the Smithsonian’s Black History Month Family Programming, this event will take place at the American History Museum, second floor, east wing, at the entrance to the NMAAHC Gallery. The Washington Performing Arts Society Children of the Gospel Choir, under the direction of artistic director Stanley J. Thurston, and Christylez, Washington’s own Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist, will lead audience members in singing &ldqup;We Shall Overcome, We Shall Not Be Moved” and others.

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m., in the American History Museum’s Carmichael Auditorium, NMMAAHC will present an advance screening of Freedom Riders, the acclaimed documentary by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. Freedom Riders is the powerful and inspirational story of the more than 400 black and white men and women who, using nonviolent tactics, risked their lives to challenge segregated facilities in the South in 1961. The film will air later this year on PBS.

Video via FirelightMediaNYC

On Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m., a dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” sets the stage for a “Colloquia on Slavery and Abolitionism—Three Perspectives,” the first of three colloquia, held on consecutive days, cosponsored by NMAAHC, the Chautauqua Institution and Colonial Williamsburg. The speech and colloquia, featuring a group of distinguished scholars (to be announced), explore the complexity of relationships between free blacks and whites in the antebellum United States and the assortment of motivations from within both groups to end slavery. For more information on this three-day, three-city event, visit nmaach.si.edu.

From left Artist Samuel L. Dunson, Jr., Bernard Kinsey, Khalil Kinsey and Shirley Kinsey with Dunson's painting, "The Cultivators" at the press preview for the Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Collection on October 14, 2010 at the National Museum of African American History and Culture Gallery. (Photo via blackgivesback.com)

On Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m., collectors Bernard and Shirley Kinsey join author Douglas A. Blackmon in a conversation about Blackmon’s groundbreaking historical study, Slavery by Another Name: The Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. This book brings to light one of the most shameful chapters in American history—when a new form of slavery was resurrected from the ashes of the Civil War and reimposed on hundreds of thousands of African Americans until the dawn of World War II. Copies of both the Blackmon book and the Kinsey’s book The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey will be available for sale and signing following the program.

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have explored and celebrated their African American heritage by collecting items of historical and cultural significance throughout their more than 40-year marriage—from an early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to correspondence between Malcolm X and Alex Haley, and from slave shackles to a 1773 first-edition copy of poems by Phillis Wheatley. The collection spans nearly four centuries and documents the hardships and the triumphs of the African American experience.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. Scheduled for completion in 2015, it will be built on a tract adjacent to the Washington Monument.

Posted: 11 January 2011
About the Author:

Samia Brennan has been a public affairs specialist in the central Office of Public Affairs since 2006. Previously, she worked in the press offices of the American History Museum and American Indian Museum.