Smithsonian Celebrates Black History Month

January 19, 2011
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 National Museum of American History Saturday, Feb. 5, from 11:30 to 5 p.m., with its “Black History Month Family Day Celebration.” The day includes an award-winning interactive theatrical presentation, Join the Student Sit-Ins; performances by the Washington Performing Arts Society and hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon;the debut of an American Girl self-guided Civil War family tour (“Addy’s World”); 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 Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will perform Saturday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium. The orchestra will focus on big band works that are iconic but seldom heard live. In addition to works written specifically for big band, including “Tiptoe” by Thad Jones, it will perform classic small-group compositions adapted for the large ensemble, such as Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance.” Tickets are required: Resident Associate members, $20; general admission, $25. Call (202) 633-3030 or visit


The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery will show Body and Soul (1925, 102 minutes) Saturday, Feb. 5, at 3 p.m. Oscar Micheaux’s 1925 silent film Body and Soul is accompanied live by a new score by Thad Wilson. The film—Paul Robeson’s screen debut—follows an escaped prisoner pretending to be a minister in a small Georgia town. Micheaux, son of former slaves, was America’s first black feature filmmaker. Free tickets will be available at 2:30 p.m. in the G Street lobby.

The Anacostia Community Museum will present Family Across the Sea (1991, 56 minutes)   Sunday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m. In this documentary, linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner uncovers the connection between the Gullah people of South Carolina’s Sea Islands and the people of Sierra Leone. Viewers will see how African Americans—through speech, songs and customs—maintained ties with their homeland over centuries of oppression.

Scheduled to air on PBS’s The American Experience series in May, Freedom Riders (2011, 120 minutes) is the first featurelength documentary to tell the story of this courageous band of civil rights activists who risked death by defying Jim Crow in the Deep South in 1961. There will be a screening of the film and a discussion with filmmaker Stanley Nelson, scholar Ray Arsenault and Freedom Ride veterans at the National Museum of American History’s Carmichael Auditorium Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 6 p.m. This event commemorates the 50th anniversary of the rides.

Lecture and Book Signing

In this lively evening of music, discussion and multimedia presentations, saxophonist Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, highlights the life and career of Duke Ellington. “Duke Ellington: Beyond Category” will be held at the National Museum of the American Indian’s Rasmuson Theater Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are required: Resident Associate members, $30; general admission, $40. Call (202) 633-3030 for reservations and information.

The National Museum of American History will feature author Kate Betts, who will sign copies of her new book, Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, at the National Museum of American History’s First Ladies exhibition Saturday, Feb. 12, from 3–5 p.m. Betts is a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and a contributor to Time and the New York Times.

For Children

An inspirational play will take the audience through the struggles and triumphs of early African American baseball players, including Andrew Foster, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson and Moses Walker. Black Diamond: Satchel Paige and the Negro Baseball League will take place at the S. Dillon Ripley Center’s Discovery Theater Thursday, Feb. 3, and Friday, Feb. 4, at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m. This program is recommended for children ages 4 to 10. Tickets are required: adults, $6; children, $5; Resident Associate members, $4; children under 2 years old, $3. Call (202) 633-3030 or visit

The National Postal Museum will present “Black History Month Stamp Collecting” Saturday, Feb. 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In an activity for the whole family, participants can build their own collection of stamps featuring such prominent African Americans as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. In addition, the exhibition “Negro Leagues Baseball Stamp Art” is on view at the museum.


With items dating to 1632, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey—Where Art and History Intersect” spotlights moments in African American history through rare books, sculptures, paintings, manuscripts and vintage photographs. Among the featured art will be works by such major African American artists as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Artis Lane, Jacob Lawrence and Henry O. Tanner. From rare slave-holder documents to glimpses into private 18th- and 19th-century lives, The Kinsey Collection reflects the richness of the African American experience. This exhibition is organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and it is currently on view at the National Museum of American History through May 1.

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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