Smithsonian to celebrate Black History Month in February

The Smithsonian celebrates Black History Month in February with a series of films, lectures and performances at museums around the Institution.

The Institution will kick off Black History Month at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum Saturday, Feb. 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with its “Black History Month Family Day” celebration. The day includes performances by guitarist Warner Williams and step team Taratibu; Can You Spell Harlem?, a puppet show by Schroeder Cherry; hands-on arts and crafts activities; a video project with the Hirshhorn’s Artlab+ teen videographers; and many interactive activities to celebrate family and heritage.


The National Museum of American History will present “Join the Student Sit-Ins” Fridays and Sundays in February at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The audience takes part in these 15–20-minute performances, staged at the actual lunch counter where the 1960 Greensboro sit-in took place.


The National Museum of the American Indian will show two films that explore identity, community and tradition in honor of Black History Month. Wapawekka (2010, 16 minutes), directed by Danis Goulet, tells the story of the cultural distance between a traditional Cree man and his son. Nikamowin/Song (2007, 11 minutes), directed by Kevin Lee Burton, ponders the indelible human connection to language and the alarming demise of Native languages, transforming the sounds of a Cree narrative into parallel landscapes and soundscapes. Both films repeat daily, except Wednesdays, through February.

The National Portrait Gallery will show The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 (2011, 100 minutes) Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. This documentary about the Black Power movement features Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael and a stellar soundtrack. National Museum of American History curator Fath Davis Ruffins introduces the film.

Lecture and Book Signing

The Anacostia Community Museum presents a program in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the passage of the District of Columbia’s Emancipation Act in 1862. Learn about the personal lives of enslaved and free people of color, the Civil War, laws governing slavery, the abolitionist movement, noteworthy institutions and the civil rights work of such early 20th-century figures as W.E.B. Du Bois and A. Philip Randolph. The video Enslavement to Emancipation will be presented at the Anacostia Community Museum Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. with a repeat showing Friday, Feb. 24, at 10:30 a.m. Call (202) 633-4844 for reservations and information.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will feature NPR’s Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Harvard law professor Annette Gordon-Reed, who will discuss her books, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and Andrew Johnson, at the National Museum of Natural History Monday, Feb. 6, from 7–8 p.m. Gordon-Reed will be also be available for book signing.

For Children

Kenyan poet, singer, storyteller and dancer, Anna Mwalagho weaves old tales to inspire and delight young ears. Her interactive programs are one-of-a-kind experiences. Come laugh, dance and sing together with this “Mama Africa.” Tales from Mother Africa will take place at the S. Dillon Ripley Center’s Discovery Theater Thursday, Feb. 2, and Friday, Feb. 3, at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m. This program is recommended for children ages 3 to 8. Tickets are required: adults, $8; children, $6; Resident Associate members, $5; children under 2 years old, $3. Call (202) 633-8700 or visit

The Anacostia Community Museum will present “Mardi Gras Family Day” Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In an activity for the whole family, participants can enter a festive costume competition. Costumes will be judged in the following age groups: ages 2 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 14, 15 to 17, 18 to 54 and seniors 55 and older. Winners take home a prize from the Smithsonian and are highlighted in the museum’s March e-newsletter.


Historically, “blacklist” denotes a group of people marginalized and denied work or social approval. In an effort to redefine the word, portraits of 50 African Americans presented in The Black List, provide insight on the struggles, triumphs and joys of black life in the U.S. The portraits are both pictorial and verbal, representing some of the most dynamic and inspiring personalities in the fields of politics, music, business, civil activism, literature, the arts and athletics. The Black List Project was conceived by photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders with Elvis Mitchell, NPR correspondent and former New York Times film critic. The exhibition is on view at the National Portrait Gallery through April 22.

All programs are subject to change. For more information about the Black History Month programs, visit:

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