Smithsonian Celebrates Black History Month

February 2, 2009
News Release

The Smithsonian celebrates Black History Month in February with a series of films, lectures and performances at museums around the Institution. All programs are free, unless otherwise indicated.

Feature Event
The Institution will kick off Black History Month at the S. Dillon Ripley Center Sunday, Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with its free “Black History Month Family Day Celebration.” The day will include music, art activities, performances, self-guided tours of the exhibition “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968” and a panel discussion of the history of the Shaw neighborhood.

The National Museum of American History will feature “Join the Student Sit-Ins” Feb. 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28, at 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Audiences will take part in a training session for the famous 1960 sit-in at a Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter. This program will take place on the second floor of the museum.

The National Portrait Gallery will present “A Portrait of Porgy” Thursday, Feb. 5, through Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium. This musical narrative is based on the life of Todd Duncan, the first actor to portray Porgy in George Gershwin’s folk opera “Porgy and Bess.” The performance is free, but seating is limited. For reservations, call (202) 633-8520 or e-mail

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., the Anacostia Community Museum will screen the film “Black Orpheus.” In 1959, French director Marcel Camus updated the Orpheus-Eurydice myth with an all-black cast, performing against the colorful background of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The film won the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (107 minutes, Portuguese with English subtitles). For more information, call (202) 633-4844.

The animated film “Kirikou and the Sorceress” will be shown Saturday, Feb. 28, at 1 p.m. at the National Museum of African Art. This French film recounts a West African folktale about a newborn boy who saves his village from the curse of an evil sorceress. This film is recommended for children ages 7 and older (71 minutes, French with English subtitles).

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m., author Gail Milissa Grant will give a lecture entitled “At the Elbows of My Elders: One Family’s Journey Toward Civil Rights” in the Commons of the Smithsonian Castle. In this illustrated reading, Grant will recount the battles fought by her father, a lawyer and civil rights activist in St. Louis; her family’s operation of a funeral home; and their earlier work on the railroad and on pleasure boats that plied the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.

The Anacostia Community Museum will feature “African Americans at Play” Saturday, Feb. 7, at 10:30 a.m. Former “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser Philip J. Merrill will present examples of African American–related toys and games. This lecture is recommended for the whole family. For reservations, call (202) 633-4844.

For Children
The Discovery Theater will present “Are you Ready, My Sister?” at the National Museum of Natural History Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in the Baird Auditorium. In this stage production, a giant patchwork quilt will tell the story of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. As the plot unfolds, each square of the quilt will come to life. This program is recommended for children ages 5 through 11. Tickets are required. Resident Associate members, $4; general admission: $6 for adults, $5 for children. Call (202) 633-8700.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will feature “Free within Ourselves: African American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Collections,” hour-long tours that explore the personal and cultural experiences of African American artists represented in the collection. The tour will highlight such artists as Lois Mailou Jones, William H. Johnson, James Hampton and Robert Duncanson. Tours will be held Saturdays, Feb. 7, 21 and 28, at 2 p.m., and Thursdays, Feb. 12 and 26, at 12:30 p.m. Participants meet in the F Street Lobby.

“The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise” features nearly a century’s worth of photographs from The Scurlock Studio, which combine to form a vivid portrait of black Washington, D.C., in all its guises—its challenges and its victories, its dignity and its determination. The exhibition features more than 100 images created by one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington. Highlights of the exhibition include cameras and equipment from the studio and period artifacts from Washington. This exhibition is a collaboration between the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History. The exhibition opens to the public Jan. 30 at the National Museum of American History and it will be on view through Nov. 15.

The Anacostia Community Museum presents “Jubilee: African American Celebrations,” which looks at African American holidays and celebrations around the country. Many of these celebrations (Election Day, Pinkster and John Canoe) no longer exist, while others (Big Quarterly and Shrove Tuesday) are still celebrated regionally but are not as well known or widely observed. The history of these celebrations and other events will be presented through images of captured moments from throughout the years, along with traditional songs and music and regional folklore related to holidays. This exhibition is on view through Sept. 20.

All programs are subject to change. For more information about the Black History Month programs, visit or e-mail For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

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Media Only

Samia Brennan

(202) 633-5191