Celebrate Black History Month with the Smithsonian

From Kenyan storytelling performances to Black Power film screenings, February on the Mall is buzzing with Black History Month events

The Black List
The Black List features portraits of fifty African Americans who are influential in their fields, such as Chris Rock. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

February is Black History Month, and if you’re wondering how to properly commemorate the holiday, look no further. There are lots of (mostly free) events around the Mall this month celebrating African American heritage.

Black History Month Family Day: On Saturday, February 4, kick off the month with a full afternoon of music, performances and crafts at the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Enjoy the blues stylings of “Guitar Man” Warner Williams and a puppet show, Can You Spell Harlem? Plus, learn the art of step in a workshop by the Taratibu Youth Association step performers. After the festivities end, head over to the McEvoy Auditorium for a screening of Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair. Free. 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Film screening at 3:30 p.m.

Tales from Mother Africa: Kenyan poet, singer, storyteller and dancer Anna Mwalagho weaves traditional tales from “Mama Africa” into an interactive performance at S. Dillon Ripley Center’s Discovery Theater on February 2 and 3. The program is geared toward young children, but a little singing and dancing is good for adults, too. Tickets required: $8 for adults, $6 for children, $5 for Resident Associate Members, $3 for children under 2. 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Enslavement to Emancipation: Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the passage of the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Act in 1862 with a video and discussion at the Anacostia Community Museum. The talk will touch on a wide range of subjects, including the Civil War, laws governing slavery, the abolitionist movement, and civil rights. Free. Reserve a spot at 202-633-4844. February 5 at 2:00 p.m. and and February 24 at 10:30 a.m.

Monticello, Slavery, and the Hemingses: Join NPR host Michel Martin and Harvard Law professor Annette Gordon-Reed for a discussion about the six Monticello slave families featured in the exhibition “Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” at the American History Museum. Hosted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Martin and Gordon-Reed will challenge conventional wisdom about slavery and the political reality of the era. Professor Gordon-Reed’s book, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family will also be discussed. Free. February 6 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum.

Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975: The Black Power movement has been both venerated and vilified, but what exactly did it mean? Test your knowledge at the National Portrait Gallery’s screening of The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, which documents this tumultuous period and features interviews with activists Angela Davis, Bobby Seale and Stokely Carmichael. Free. February 18 at 1:00 p.m.

The Black List: Reinterpreting the exclusionary definition of a “blacklist,” photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and NPR’s Elvis Mitchell compiled a list of people who represent the African American experience in the 20th century. The result is an inspiring exhibition of large-format photographic portraits and film interviews of artists, politicians, writers, athletes and civil rights activists who have made a difference in their fields. The 50 portraits on display include musician John Legend, artist Kara Walker and political activist Angela Davis. On view at the National Portrait Gallery until April 22.

Groundbreaking for the National Museum of African American History and Culture: Almost a decade after the establishment of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, construction on the museum site breaks ground on February 22. Catch the webcast of the groundbreaking ceremony, which will feature speeches and musical performances starting at 9:00 a.m. The museum construction should be finished in 2015, so you’ll have plenty of time to head down to the new site between the Washington Monument and the American History Museum and check its progress.

For the full schedule of Black History Month events, click here.

Get the latest on what's happening At the Smithsonian in your inbox.