Smithsonian will celebrate Black History Month this year with a twist—virtual programming.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is offering a wide range of digital programs for all ages this February. The month kicks off February 2 with a book discussion with authors and scholars Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain on their newly released book Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019, a 10-part book spanning 400 years of African American history. In this discussion moderated by Mary Elliott, the museum’s curator of American slavery, Kendi and Blain will focus on slavery, reconstruction and segregation and their continuing impact on the United States. They will be joined by several contributors to the book, including Herb Boyd, City University of New York; Kali Nicole Gross, Emory University; Peniel Joseph, University of Texas; and Annette Gordon Reed, Harvard University.
The museum’s Black History Month celebration also features the digital return of one of its signature programs, "A Seat at the Table," an interactive program for participants to consider challenging questions about race, identity and economic justice over a meal. The February session will cover race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States.
Other programs include the third installment of the museum’s popular education series, “Artists at Home,” for students grades six to 12; a new children’s program series based on the museum’s newest Joyful ABC’s activity book series; and a discussion about race and medicine with educators from the museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
Uplifting the Black Family: NMAAHC Black History Month Social Media Campaign
NMAAHC’s social media platforms will explore The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity, the theme for 2021 selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization created in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson—known as the Father of Black History Month. The daily, digital conversation will amplify the museum’s Black History Month programming and will share century-old stories, dynamic photographs and items in its collection and family history resources. The public can view this year’s Black History Month social media campaign by following @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Historically Speaking: 400 Souls—A Conversation with Ibram Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Tuesday, Feb. 2; 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Renowned scholars Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire have assembled 90 extraordinary writers to document the 400 hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present in their newly released book Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019. Each contributor writes about a five-year period of 400 years of African American history using essays, short stories, personal vignettes and fiery polemics. The authors approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons, the untold stories of ordinary people, as well as landmarks, laws and artifacts. In a discussion moderated by museum curator Mary Elliott, featured editors Kendi and Blain will focus on historic eras such as slavery, reconstruction and segregation and their sustained impact on the United States. Several contributors to the book will join Kendi and Blain in a discussion about the impact of the African American community on social justice trajectory of American History. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
A Seat at the Table: Prison Reform and Restorative Justice
Thursday, Feb. 4; 7 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. ET (program is now full)
The museum will host a thought-provoking conversation about race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States. Labor economist, author and political commentator Julianne Malveaux will moderate a discussion with Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, journalist and media producer; Marlon Peterson, activist, author and Atlantic Racial Equity Fellow; and Paul Gardullo, museum curator. The speakers will focus on the industrial prison system and its impact on black and Latino populations. After the presentation, audience participants will have the opportunity to share their stories and ideas with one another at their virtual table on how the public may address prisons in favor of alternative forms of restorative justice. A Seat at the Table is an interactive program for participants to consider challenging questions about race, identity and economic justice over a meal. Registration for the program must be completed by Jan. 30 to receive a meal kit to prepare at home for the program; select food options are available to participants.
NMAAHC Kids: Joyful Fridays
Friday, Feb. 5; 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. ET (program occurs every Friday)
Joyful Fridays welcomes children every Friday in February to create art that celebrates Black joy, history and culture. This special program is inspired by the museum’s Joyful ABC’s activity book series, which features activities, museum objects and new words based on characteristics featured in the book, A is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book. In its first installment, February’s Joyful Fridays will focus on activities inspired by the themes of letters C–F: Creative, Daring, Emotional and Fair. To prepare for the activity, registered participants will receive a list of accessible supplies needed, recommended books and links to online resources in the museum’s early childhood Learning Lab collections the Monday before each program. Participants can prepare for this program series by building an at-home creativity kit. This program is for children ages 4 through 8. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
The Robert F. Smith Family Center Presents Courthouse Research: Using Probate Records to Research Enslaved Ancestors
Saturday, Feb. 6; 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Author, teacher and certified genealogical lecturer LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson will share best practices in using probate and other estate records to identify potential slaveholders. This lecture will help prepare participants to break through the 1870 U.S. Census brick wall after they have identified the names of ancestors born during slavery and now find themselves stalled in their research. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
Artists at Home: School Outreach
Tuesday, Feb. 9 (program occurs biweekly on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday)
Adapted from the museum’s summer program, “Artists at Home” is a digital interactive program designed to engage students with hands-on artmaking and conversations about African American artists and different visual art genres. Each hour-long session, led by an NMAAHC educator, encourages participants to make art using household materials and discuss the featured artist work. February’s sessions will focus on the works of Wadsworth Jarrell and word portraits. Educators and academic institutions are encouraged to register for this creative program designed for the at-home classroom. This program is for students from grades six–12. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
In Dialogue: Social Smithsonian Objects and Social Justice—Race and Medicine
Thursday, Feb. 11; 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET
Each month, educators from the National Portrait Gallery will partner with colleagues from across the Smithsonian to discuss how historical objects from their respective collections speak to today’s social justice issues. During Black History Month, the focus is on race and medicine as represented by a collection of related objects—a portrait of Charles R. Drew (1904–1950), a renowned African American surgeon and researcher in the field of blood transfusions who developed large-scale blood banks for use during World War II; and measuring equipment owned by William Montague Cobb (1909–1990), a board-certified physician, professor at Howard University and the first African American doctorate in anthropology who helped develop the sub-specialty of biocultural anthropology. The conversation features Leslie P. Walker, head of NMAAHC’s academic and social justice department in the Office of Public Programs, and Beth Evans, National Portrait Gallery educator. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
African Americans In STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
Feb. 21–Feb. 27; kickoff Feb. 21 from 12 p.m.–3 p.m. ET
In collaboration with blackcomputeHER, the museum celebrates National Engineering Week with the African Americans in STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. Participants will create and edit Wikipedia pages for African American STEM professionals highlighting the impacts on their communities, nation and the world. The creation and editing of Wikipedia pages will benefit K–12 students and teachers by sharing the narratives of African American STEM professionals, past and present. Participants should create a Wikipedia account before the start of the Edit-a-Thon. Training will be provided for new editors during the kickoff event. Q&A sessions will be available each day for those participants looking to make edits during the week. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
Historically Speaking: COVID-19 and the Economy
Tuesday, Feb. 23; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
In this program moderated by Michael Fletcher, senior writer at ESPN’s Undefeated, panelists will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy and the African American community. Panelists Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist at the Washington Post, and Algernon Austin, senior researcher at the Thurgood Marshall Institute, will discuss this economic issue and how the community can prevail with critical interventions. Admission is free; however, registration is required.
NMAAHC’s Newest Online Exhibition: “Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes: A Classic in African American Genealogy”
This inspirational exhibition, formerly only available to the public through a visit to the museum, has now gone digital. Pioneering lawyer, Episcopal priest and activist, Pauli Murray (1910–1985), is the author of a major African American genealogy work, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family. Released 20 years before Alex Haley’s Roots, her book is regarded as an early but often overlooked exploration into ancestral connection. In the book, Murray dissects the racial and social dynamics between the union of a free black family from the North and a mixed-race family in the South. The online exhibition features an interactive story map with detailed documents, photos and video of Murray’s life and her role as a member of the Fitzgerald family, fighting for freedom and justice in the South and beyond.
About the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 6 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.