Celebrate Black History Month in NYC

February 5, 2021

This year’s Black History Month theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identify and Diversity, and though we won’t see as many large in-person festivities this February due to Covid, there are still many ways you can celebrate here in Brooklyn, across NYC and online. 

You might start by reading about the origins of Black History Month and the Civil Rights Movement, then explore the Black History Archives at WNYC. Throughout the rest of the month, you could read about, visit or attend some of the many historically significant NYC places and events that have shaped Black culture (i.e., American culture).

Whiskey in crystal glass

Photo by Thomas Park

Virtual Celebrations

Check out these artistic covers featuring Black heroes in Marvel Comics. Discover new music through NPR’s Black History Month Tiny Desk concerts. Watch some family-friendly movies celebrating Black History. Head to Apple to find a Black voices podcast, a book by a Black author, or TV show or film centered around stories that honor Black families.

And try some of the many interesting virtual events such as:

Feb. 14, 2021: Catch a virtual tour of the Frederick Douglass heritage sites located around the Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Feb. 17, 2021: Legendary Stax Music Academy hosts an online variety show celebrating Rhythm and Revolution: Expressions of Struggle, Collaboration, and Peace!

Feb. 17, 2021: The Museum of Food and Drink and Green Space host Untold Stories Behind the Whiskey Still, exploring history and traditions of Black distillers.

Feb. 18, 2021: Kids will enjoy The Roots of Rap live, interactive class online from NYC Children’s Theater.

Feb. 23, 2021: Take a Black Bohemia virtual tour through the Village.

Feb. 25, 2021: You could attend a National Archives Museum panel discussion speaking to ideas and perspectives surrounding The Black Family theme.

Feb. 26, 2021: Learn about Black Toys and Toymakers through a virtual event hosted by The Strong National Museum of Play.

Lenox Ave 125 St Signs Intersection Harlem NYC

Photo by Kay

NYC Black History Sites

Discover some of the many historic places and cultural sites throughout NYC that helped shape Black culture and civil rights. Take a virtual stroll through Staten Island’s Sandy Ground, which is the oldest continuously inhabited free Black settlement in the country. Learn about Weeksville, Brooklyn’s first Black enclave. And read about the Black history at NYC parks, followed by a stroll past some of the historic sites.

Brooklyn Public Library

The library is always a terrific source for engaging activities that are free of cost. For Black History Month, Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a series of virtual events such as storytimes about Black historical icons, virtual book discussions, literary trivia and kids’ educational sessions. Or, explore the In Pursuit of Freedom website, put together by the library’s Center for Brooklyn History, which explores the anti-slavery movement in Brooklyn from the end of the American Revolution through the early days of Reconstruction.

New York Public Library

NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has a digital collection of photographs, art and artifacts, manuscripts and rare books to peruse, as well as Black Liberation reading lists for adults, teens and kids. And NYPL has ongoing events, many of which focus on Black History Month in February.

Jazz records on store shelf

Photo by Mick Haupt

NYC Walking Tours

Familiarize yourself with the Black Gotham Experience, a multimedia storytelling project celebrating the African Diaspora’s impact on NYC. They offer walks, talks, events and more. And be sure to check out their free before belonging audio walking tour, narrated by founder Kamau Ware. Or this The Shed’s Fighting Dark audio walking tour commissioned by Mr. Ware and focusing on NYC’s July 1863 race riots and the power of Black resilience.

You could also book a Harlem Heritage tour, led by locals. Learn about NYC jazz history, and then take a self-guided tour to some iconic NYC jazz clubs. Or take a self-guided Black Artstory Month tour along Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn. If you plan on doing any in-person tours, be sure to double check operating hours.

Consider supporting Black-owned Brooklyn businesses not only for the duration of Black History Month but anytime throughout the year, and follow organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the NAACP to find out how you can continue taking a stand for Civil Rights.

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