Philadelphia recognizes its distinct African-American culture through this year's celebration of Black History Month. (Photo credits clockwise from top left: M. Kennedy for GPTMC; M. Kennedy for GPTMC; J. Ramsdale for Mural Arts Program; courtesy The Barnes Foundation)
February is already here which means museums, galleries and organizations around the city are hosting events to celebrate Black History Month. Philadelphia has a rich African-African history and culture, so the city is buzzing with events fit for anyone.
Our collection of Black History Month events include everything from month-long exhibits, to one night only concerts and performances.
Learn about the history of Civil Rights activists and African-American performers, athletes and scholars who played pivotal roles in American history.
Check out our list of Black History Month celebrations, below:
Exhibitions and Collections
• The Philadelphia History Museum: The Philadelphia History Museum celebrates 330 years of Philadelphia’s history with the ongoing African-American Experience in Philadelphia exhibition featuring Joe Frazier’s Everlast boxing gloves from a 1960 championship fight, vintage Philadelphia neighborhood photos and more.
• Snyderman-Works Galleries: Check out a selection of prints from the Brandywine Workshop curated by gallery owner Rick Snyderman in coordination with Allan Edmunds, director and founder of The Brandywine Workshop. The Brandywine Workshop: A Unique Vision is a 40-piece exhibition that celebrates the workshop’s 40th anniversary. The exhibit will run through February 23.
• National Museum of American Jewish History: The little-known story of Jewish academics who came to America in the 1930s and found work at historically black colleges and universities is the focus of Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges, on view at the National Museum of American Jewish History through June 2. In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will show Beyond Color: The Films of Joel Katz on February 6 and 13.
• African American Museum in Philadelphia: On display at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection features more than 30 gowns worn by The Supremes and explores Mary Wilson’s journey to self-actualization. In addition to Come See About Me, the African American Museum in Philadelphia presents Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876, an ongoing display that recounts the stories of and contributions made by people of African decent in Philadelphia.
• National Constitution Center: During the month of February, the National Constitution Center pays tribute to the extraordinary achievements and sacrifices made by African-Americans throughout history as they strived to become part of “We the People.” Visitors can participate in the African American History Month Celebration, featuring daily interactive programs designed for all ages and artifacts highlighting important historic moments, including a rare Lincoln-signed print of the Emancipation Proclamation. The exhibit runs from February 1-28 and includes two days of free admission – Sunday, February 3 and 24. Cool!
• Philadelphia Museum of Art: On February 8, head out to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the African-American art collection tour. The tour explores works that honor some of the Museum’s most influential African American artists.
• Vivant Art Collection: On view at the Vivant Art Collection is Revolutionary Modè: Exploration of Black History, Culture and Fashion during the Avant Garde Period is an exhibit that encourages the exploration of black history, culture, politics and fashion through the work of local artists. The exhibition runs from February 21-28.
Movies, Stories, Talks and Tours
• The Association for Public Art: History buffs, take notice! The Association for Public Art is putting on an event where you can listen to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Charles Fuller and others tell the story behind All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors. Visitors can download the audio version of Fuller’s narration here.
• The Free Library of Philadelphia: At numerous locations around the city, the Free Library of Philadelphia is hosting events for all ages during February. Topics include the Harlem Renaissance, the birth and evolution of jazz music and the important contributions that African-American soldiers, scientists and Civil Rights activists have made to the U.S.
More Black History happenings below.
• Independence Visitor Center: The Independence Visitor Center boasts several Black History Month events. On February 2, check out Music of the Underground Railroad, a family-friendly presentation and performance that explain the history of the music those on the quest for freedom enjoyed. Also check out The Chew Family Papers and the Roots of the Underground Railroad, an interactive discussion about the beginnings of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia on February 16.
• The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program: The Albert M. Greenfield African-American iconic images collection spotlights 50 murals honoring many themes and significant people in Philadelphia’s African-American history. People like W.E.B. DuBois, Patti LaBelle, Malcolm X and many others are honored. The event is put on by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and is perfect for art lovers and history buffs. You can even download a free self-guided audio tour, narrated by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, or hop on a guided trolley tour on February 2 or 23.
• The Barnes Foundation: Celebrate Black History Month at The Barnes Foundation with musical performances and a special screening. On February 3, catch the screening of Wereth Eleven, which tells the story of 11 African-American soldiers who were brutally murdered by the Nazis in a senseless war crime that was never prosecuted. Also on tap, on February 8, trumpeter Bruce Frazier and Grace Notes interpret spirituals and works by 20th-century greats Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder and vocalist Philip Hamilton delivers a soul-stirring acapella performance on February 22.
• Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College: On February 9, Christopher Densmore, curator and director of Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, discusses the development of anti-slavery testimony among Philadelphia Quakers and its influence on the larger society. The discussion will take place at Stenton, one of Philadelphia’s best-preserved historic houses, built and owned by James Logan, secretary to Pennsylvania founder William Penn. Tours of the house follow the talk. This is a free event, but reservations are required.
• The Church of the Holy Trinity: On February 16, the Church of the Holy Trinity hosts Astral Artists, Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s first poet laureate, and special musical guests for a celebration of music and poetry that features new works by acclaimed African-American composers. Astral-commissioned world premieres by Evelyn Simpson-Curenton, David Sanford and Alvin Singleton are each inspired by the spiritual and illuminated with poetry read by Sanchez.
• The Mercer Museum: Sports fans, check out The Souls of Black Baseball: Brainstorming the Keystone State at the Mercer Museum on February 17. The stories of Octavius Catto, Oscar Charleston, Cum Posey, Gus Greenlee, Eddie Bolden and others who contributed to Pennsylvania’s rich black baseball history come to life during the exhibit.
• Historic Philadelphia Center: Presidential and black history come to life through lively tales told for free at the Once Upon a Nation storytelling bench located in the Historic Philadelphia Center on February 17 and 18. Participants also receive 50% off a viewing of Liberty 360, a 3D theater show that delves into symbols of freedom.
• The Merriam Theater: On February 2, The Merriam Theater welcomes the longest consecutively running jazz festival in the world, The Monterey Jazz Festival, to its stage for a 55th-anniversary celebration. Performances include a mixture of old and new, vocal and instrumental, bee bop, fusion, free and soul jazz.
• The Philadelphia Theater Company: At the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, the Philadelphia Theatre Company presents The Mountaintop, a gripping reimagining of the night before the assassination of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The show runs through February 17.
• The Kimmel Center: My Brother Marvin, a stage play about the life of musical great Marvin Gaye, comes to The Kimmel Center. Based on the first-hand accounts of Marvin’s sister Zeola Gaye, the show reveals singer’s internal battles, fears and family secrets. The show runs from February 19-24.