Celebrate Black History Month 2017 at the Smithsonian

January 23, 2017
News Release

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Mechanical toy of minstrel performers Hamm and Samm

The Smithsonian invites the public to celebrate Black History Month in February through a series of vibrant performances, lectures, family activities and exhibitions at its various museums. All programs are free unless otherwise indicated.

Featured Event

The Smithsonian’s kickoff celebration of Black History Month will be a panel discussion, “From Tarzan to Tonto: Stereotypes as Obstacles Toward a More Perfect Union,” hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of African Art. The program is set for Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. in the American Indian Museum’s Rasmuson Theater, followed by a reception in the Potomac Atrium. Panelists will include Gaurav Desai of Tulane University, Adrienne Keene of Brown University, Tiya Miles of the University of Michigan, Imani Perry of Princeton University and critic Jessi Wente. Seating will be first come, first served.


The National Museum of the American Indian celebrates Black History Month, Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2 p.m. with a concert by Garifuna artist and historian James Lovell. The music is a lively manifestation of the Afro-Carib-Arawak mix found along the Caribbean coast of Central America.

The U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) performs chamber works by such composers as H. Leslie Adams, Valerie Coleman and Alvin Singleton, Sunday, Feb. 26, at 3 p.m. at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The “A Celebration of Black Composers and Chamber Music” concert will be followed by a discussion and Q&A. Registration is strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcome.    


The National Museum of American History will host “Innovation Lives: A Conversation with Inventor Lonnie Johnson,” Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m. Inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, Johnson has received more than a hundred patents, many of which are related to clean energy. Economist Lisa Cook interviews him about his career.

Kirk Johnson, Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History, will sit down for an evening with Freeman Hrabowski III, Friday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Natural History Museum’s Baird Auditorium, to discuss increasing diversity in science. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is an advocate for growing diversity in STEM fields. The program is free and open to the public; registration is required.

The Anacostia Community Museum will host discussions with Smithsonian curators Leslie Urena, Camen Ramos and Ariana Curtis Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. “Gateways: Curator’s Conversation” will discuss the interconnections of black and Latino history as seen in the exhibition “Gateways”. The program is free, but registration is required; registration is available online or at 202-633-4844.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, professor of history at the University of Delaware, will host a discussion about her book, Never Caught: Ona Judge, the Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. Books will be available for sale and signing. Registration is strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcome.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will host “Harlem Heroes Talk,” Friday, Feb. 10, at 6:30 p.m. in McEvoy Auditorium. Dr. Walter Evans, a collector of African American art and artifacts, talks about major figures in the Harlem Renaissance such as W.E.B. DuBois, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Robeson, Bessie Smith and others whose images are on display  in the museum’s exhibition “Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten.”

Bring the Kids

Bring the kids to the National Air and Space Museum to celebrate the contributions African Americans have made to flight and space exploration, Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. and again at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center location in Chantilly, VA., Saturday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.  Visitors can enjoy stories, presentations and hands-on activities. Learn about African American astronauts, pilots and scientists.

Discovery Theater in the S. Dillon Ripley Center presents an array of Black History Month programs for kids ages 1–4.

Kofi’s Drum: The Beat of Life

Wednesday–Friday, Feb. 8–10; 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Signal Songs of the Underground Railroad with Phyllis Wade

Tuesday, Feb. 14; 10:15 a.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 15; 11:30 a.m.

How Old Is a Hero?

Tuesday–Friday, Feb.21–24; 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.


The Anacostia Community Museum will screen the documentary Floyd Norman, an Animated Life, Friday, Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. Norman was the first African American animator hired by Walt Disney Studios who worked on the cartoon classics One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book.


The National Museum of American History offers “Cooking Up History: Food and the Great Migration,” Saturday, Feb. 25, 2–3 p.m. This food demonstration features Chef Jerome Grant of Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture preparing recipes and discussing how African Americans preserved southern “soul food” traditions in the urban North.

All Black History Month programs at the Smithsonian are subject to change. Unless otherwise indicated, the programs are free. For more information about Black History Month programs, visit www.SmithsonianEducation.org/Heritage or email heritagemonths@si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call 202-633-1000.

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