To celebrate Black History Month, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is offering a wide array of virtual programs for all ages. The month begins with A Seat at the Table, one of NMAAHC’s signature interactive programs, inviting participants to consider challenging questions about race, identity and economic justice over a meal. This special program will cover the triumphs and challenges of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the efforts to maintain their legacy.
The museum will also explore the historical significance of Black health and wellness in February with the debut of a new blog series featuring conversations with several practicing midwives and doulas including Kahlil Kuykendall and Nikki Plaskett. These posts also offer a closer look at several objects from the midwives’ section of the current NMAAHC exhibition, “Making a Way Out of No Way.”
NMAAHC’s social media channels throughout Black History Month will feature Black health and wellness stories, including that of James McCune, the first African American to hold a medical degree. Other stories include Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who was diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. Lacks’ cells were taken for a sample without her permission. Her story is one of many examples of the medical malpractice African Americans experience while seeking health care. More stories and details can be found at NMAAHC’s Searchable Museum.
February Virtual Programming Schedule
Joyful Fridays: The Black Panthers
Friday, Feb. 4; 11 a.m. ET
Parents can kick off Black History Month with their little ones during this session showing how the Black Panther Party contributed to the health and wellness of their communities through initiatives such as the Free Breakfast Program for children, 1969–1980. Then, they can paint a panther inspired by objects in NMAAHC’s collection. Registration is required.
A Seat at the Table: The Triumphs and Challenges of Black Education
Friday, Feb. 4; 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET
Access to higher education and formal schooling were new opportunities for African Americans during the Reconstruction era immediately following the Civil War. Education advocates helped foster the founding of several HBCUs, which trained generations of educators, lawyers, scientists and medical professionals. Their work helped shape some of the greatest minds of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, Jim Crow laws forcibly segregated schools, leaving many Black institutions underfunded and overburdened—a complicated legacy that reverberates to the present. Julianne Malveaux will moderate a conversation with Taiisha Swinton-Buck, Jitu Brown and Harry L. Williams to examine why these issues are still present among Black-majority schools and the efforts to change this landscape. A Seat at the Table is an interactive virtual program for participants to consider challenging questions about race, identity and economic justice. The conversations take place over a meal delivered by the museum to the participants. Upon registering for the program, registrants will make their meal selections with the museum. Registration is required. The cost is $45.
History Alive! Coming Home: African Americans Returning from World War II
Monday, Feb. 7 and 14; 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET
In the face of racism and segregation, Black men and women served in every branch of the armed forces during World War II. After victory abroad, Black veterans returned and continued the fight for freedom at home. History Alive! explores the people and the stories behind the artifacts that trace the nation’s history in health care, education, housing and political process and shows the conditions Black veterans faced during the aftermath of WWII. John McCaskill, NMAAHC’s living history interpreter, tells how those engaged in the military made their service useful not only for the good of their country, but also to benefit their personal lives and their community. Join online. No registration is required.
“Make Good the Promises” at Busboys and Poets—Conversation Featuring Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Paul Gardullo
Feb. 9; 7 p.m. ET
Kinshasha Holman Conwill, NMAAHC deputy director, and Paul Gardullo, supervisory museum curator, will hold a virtual discussion of the new book Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies, which they co-edited as the companion to the museum’s exhibition about the lasting impact of Reconstruction. Their moderated conversation will focus on the book’s exploration of themes of the historical and contemporary importance concerning voting rights and education equity, as well as the legacy of violence, liberation and repair. The program will be hosted and streamed by Busboys and Poets. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase. Registration is required.
Joyful Fridays: Maya Angelou
Friday, Feb. 11; 11 a.m. ET
Maya Angelou (1928–2014) showed people that kindness and expressing gratitude are important parts of their everyday wellness. During this special Black History Month children’s program, participants can learn more about this inspiring poet and author and create a rainbow collage craft as a reminder to “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Registration is required.
Fruit of the Earth: Using Deed Records to Uncover Your Ancestors with Robyn Smith
Saturday, Feb. 12; 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Deed records are among the best documents for researching family history, but their legal language can intimidate even seasoned researchers. In this session, genealogy blogger Robyn Smith shows how deed records can help identify multiple generations of a family and reveal the social history of a community. An engineer by day, Smith specializes in researching Maryland history, court records and slavery and has lectured widely at regional and national conferences. This program will include a discussion with Ebonie Alexander, director of the Black Family Land Trust. Registration is required.
Joyful Fridays: Granville T. Woods & The Roller Coaster
Friday, Feb. 18; 11 a.m. ET
The inventive mind of Granville T. Woods (1856–1910) is behind the roller coasters enjoyed today. Born in Columbus, Ohio, to free African Americans, he held various engineering and industrial jobs before establishing a company to develop electrical devices. Known as the “Black Edison,” he registered nearly 60 patents in his lifetime, including a telephone transmitter, a trolley wheel and the multiplex telegraph. During this interactive children’s program, participants can learn more about this African American inventor and create a mini roller coaster-inspired sculpture. Registration is required.
Historically Speaking: A Great Moral and Social Force—Conversation with Timothy Todd
Tuesday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
In his book, Great Moral and Social Force: A History of Black Banks author Timothy Todd of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, discusses the emergence of African American financial institutions and how they fostered economic independence and wealth-building within African American communities during the Reconstruction era and beyond. In a discussion moderated by Michael Fletcher of ESPN’s Undefeated, Todd will provide the social and historic contexts for the establishment of Black bank ownership by focusing on their emergence in the cities of Richmond, Virginia; Boley, Oklahoma; Chicago; Memphis, Tennessee; and Detroit. A digital copy of the book is available for download. Registration is required.
Joyful Fridays: Black Creativity & Abstract Art
Friday, Feb. 25; 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET
Participants can take a closer look at the art of African American artists Alma Thomas (1891–1978) and McArthur Binion and learn about their unique creative styles. They can then create a drawing inspired by their art in the NMAAHC collection. Binion, born in 1946 and living in Chicago, employs basic materials such as oil sticks, ink and graphite to create a dense, interlacing grid on the surface of his paintings. This handmade geometry is applied to a ground layer of neatly tiled images. During the 1960s, Thomas emerged as an exuberant colorist, abstracting shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her. She began to paint seriously in 1960, when she retired from her 38-year career as an art teacher in the public schools of Washington, D.C. In the years that followed, she would be regarded as a significant painter of the Washington Color Field School. Registration is required.
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 7.5 million in-person visitors and millions more through its digital presence. 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, visit nmaahc.si.edu follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.