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.
The Institution will kick off Black History Month at the National Museum of American History Saturday, Feb. 6, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with its “Black History Month Family Day Celebration.” The day includes an award-winning interactive theatrical presentation, Join the Student Sit-Ins, at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; a musical program, “Sing for Freedom,” which celebrates the role of freedom songs in the civil rights movement, at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; a puppet show, Can You Spell Harlem? at 1:30 p.m.; and an activity in which participants create a cut-out genealogy book. Participants are also invited to share their thoughts on what America has achieved through the civil rights movement.
This is the first feature event of the 2010 Smithsonian Heritage Month family-day series, titled “Tapestry of Cultural Rhythms.” The series explores the dynamism of cultural expression. The Black History Month feature event is also part of the 50th-anniversary commemorations of the famous 1960 sit-in at a Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter. The lunch counter is on view at the National Museum of American History.
The Smithsonian Associates presents “The Lady Who Swings the Band: The Mary Lou Williams Centennial Celebration” Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performs music from the career of pianist and arranger Mary Lou Williams, including works she arranged for Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. Tickets are required. Resident Associate members, $20; general admission, $25. Call (202) 633-3030.
Written and produced by Jewell Robinson, a Helen Hayes Award nominee, Words Between Two Reformers: Mary McLeod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt, is an original theatrical work that explores the friendship between Roosevelt and Bethune, a civil rights leader and member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.” This performance is Monday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. at the McEvoy Auditorium at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended. Call (202) 633-8520.
The National Museum of American History features “All-American Music: Behind the Scenes with Porgy and Bess” Thursday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the museum’s Carmichael Auditorium. This discussion of the upcoming Washington National Opera production of Porgy and Bess takes the historical long view of George Gershwin’s groundbreaking work. Participants include conductor John Mauceri, assistant artistic director Rita D’Angelo Tikador and Dwight Blocker Bowers, the curator of music, sports and entertainment at the National Museum of American History. Members of the cast perform highlights.
On Saturday, Feb. 13, the National Portrait Gallery presents a double feature: Brush with Life: The Art of Being Edward Biberman (85 minutes; 2008) at 2 p.m. and the classic Stormy Weather (78 minutes; 1943) at 4:30 p.m. The documentary Brush with Life recounts the career of Biberman, a pillar of the mid-century art scene in Los Angeles, whose portrait of Lena Horne is in the Portrait Gallery’s collection. Following the film, there will be a conversation with its director, Jeff Kaufman. In Stormy Weather, Horne stars with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Cab Calloway and Fats Waller in this early African American classic. The films will be shown in the McEvoy Auditorium; searing is first come, first served.
Curator Michelle Delaney gives a talk on the relationship between Duke Ellington and the Scurlock family, owners of a prominent photography studio in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Feb. 11, at 12:15 p.m. at the National Museum of American History. A Scurlock portrait of Ellington is included in the museum’s exhibition, “The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise.” Participants should meet in Flag Hall on the second floor of the museum.
The Anacostia Community Museum presents “Casbah to Zanzibar: Diversity through Dance” Saturday, Feb. 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. A panel of 1950s-era dancers retrace the history of Latin-dance nightlife in Washington, D.C., from WUST Radio Music Hall to the Casbah—the U Street home of the mambo—to the Zanzibar on the Waterfront. After the discussion, participants may dance to the salsa music of the Verny Varela Project. Space is limited. For reservations, call (202) 633-4866.
The S. Dillon Ripley Center features Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in the Discovery Theater. This show by playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton looks at the lives and work of African American inventors and entrepreneurs, from George Washington Carver to Madam C.J. Walker, the world’s first female self-made millionaire. This program is recommended for children ages 6 through 11. Tickets are required: Resident Associate members, $4; general admission: $6 for adults, $5 for children. Call (202) 633-3030.
“The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present,” a critically acclaimed traveling exhibition, is presented at the Anacostia Community Museum through July 4. This bilingual exhibition studies the impact that Africans have had on Mexican culture from the colonial era to the present day. Highlights of the exhibition include discussions of African slavery in Mexico, artifacts related to the traditions and popular culture of Afro-Mexicans, paintings, masks, photography and other works of art.
“IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas” is now on view at the National Museum of the American Indian through May 31. This 20-panel banner exhibition focuses on the lives—past and present—of people of dual African American and Native American ancestry. With compelling text and powerful graphics, the exhibition includes accounts of cultural integration and diffusion, as well as the struggle to define and preserve identity.
All programs are subject to change. For more information about the Black History Month programs, visit: www.SmithsonianEducation.org/Heritage or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).
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