Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five. image via Louis Armstrong House Museum
The annual celebration of Black History Month is a time to recognize the achievements of African-Americans throughout the history of our country. It is also a time to remember the struggles for freedom and justice. The roots of this celebration take us back to 1915, when historian, Carter G. Woodson and minister, Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), known today as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH). In 1926, this organization sponsored a national Negro History Week during the second week of February, to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976.
This year’s theme is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African-American Memories.” In keeping with this theme, here are 10 exhibits and events that will take you on a photographic tour covering fifty years, to a Black Lifes Matter Edit-a-Thon; the hallowed grounds of music, to the hallowed grounds of art to view artistic creations based on a legacy of oppression, and a future filled with hope.
12. Close to Home, New Photography from Africa at Walther Gallery
The Walther Collection in Chelsea often exhibits works of historical and contemporary significance from artists working in Africa. In February, they will be presenting Close to Home – New Photography from Africa. This is their second installment of the multi-year exhibition series, which is presented thematically from 2015 to 2017. The exhibit features five emerging artists who are exploring new visions of social identity in Africa and the African Diaspora in portrait photography. The portraits give us an in-depth account of sub-cultures and communities as part of this major exhibition, that will culminate in 2017 at an exhibition at The Walther Collection’s museum in Neu-Ulm, Germany. Close to Home will be on view beginning February 4 at The Walther Collection Project Space, 526 West 26th Street, Suite 718. Free and open to the public.
11. Twice Told by The Studio Museum in Harlem
Twice Told by Brooklyn-based artist Marc Andre Robinson is based on the W.E.B. DuBois book The Souls of Black Folk (1902), exploring DuBois’s theory of “double consciousness,” the duality of the black American psyche. In this exhibit, Robinson uses chairs to represent the traces of people who have used them by exploring the legacy of African-American oppression in our society. Using reclaimed wood, epoxy and steel, Robinson weaves the story told by DeBois in his exhibit Twice Told following DuBois argument that the African-American psyches remain unreconciled, but continuing the argument to include the possibility of multiple perspectives.
Twice Told will be on view at The Studio Museum in Harlem through March 6. In addition, the museum has several other exhibits, events and activities during February. They are located at 144 West 125th Street, between Malcolm X Blvd. (Lenox Ave) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (subway #2/3 to 125th Street).
10. Say it Loud Arts and Activism at The Apollo
In honor of Black History Month, The Apollo Theater will be hosting an open house weekend entitled Say It Loud! Arts and Activism at The Apollo. The weekend begins with day-long activities on February 6, from 2 to 5 pm, including art and musical presentations co-hosted by Billy “Mr. Apollo” Mitchell. On February 7 at 2 pm, there will be a free screening of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. This is the first feature-length documentary exploring the Black Panther Party. The screening will be followed by a discussion with director Stanley Nelson, former members of the Black Panther Party, journalists, THIRTEEN’s MetroFocus Producer and Host, Rafael Pi Roman and others. RSVP is required.
9. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has a continuous plethora of programs and events pertaining to Black History. Here we present four events that caught our eye.
February 1st, 6:30 pm: The Very Black Project will present a conversation on the life and legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat in Basquiat and Contemporary Queer Art. The program, which was created by NYU Africana Studies graduate students, explores the cultural phenomena and events that laid the foundation for Basquiat’s impact on the African Diaspora communities. Located in the Langston Hughes Auditorium, this event is free with prior registration.
February 5th, 6 pm: First Fridays at the Schomburg is a popular social gathering and networking event. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, the February First Friday will pay tribute to black love in all its forms. First Fridays: Holiday “Black Love” Edition will include speed dating for singles in its American Negro Theatre, signature drinks and music by D J Kandy. There is an admission charge for this event.
February 6th, Noon to 5pm: The Schomburg Center, working with the AfroCROWD initiative, is hosting Black Life Matters Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon 2016 Edition for Black History Month. Learn how to edit Wikipedia to improve the website’s entries on black history and culture. The Edit-a-Thon will be held in the Aaron Douglas Reading Room of the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research Division on the C-level. Laptops will be available, with library card, but you are welcome to bring your own. A reception will follow the event at 5 pm. This is a free event with registration.
February 9th: Visually Speaking: The Timeless Art of Kamoinge is a photo exhibit created over the past fifty years by thirty members of the American photographic collective, Kamoinge. In addition to the more than 280 photographs, there will be a talk which will include the President of Kamoinge, Anthony Barboza and book signing for “Timeless,” photographs by Kamoinge, on February 9 at 6:30. This is a free event with registration, and located in the Langston Hughes Auditorium.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd. (Lenox Ave), at 135th Street, next to the #2/3 subway station.
8. Vintage Photographs by Anthony Barboza at Keith de Lellis Gallery
The renowned photographer Anthony Barboza has been capturing his subjects in the streets of New York City since 1963. He was introduced to The Kamoinge Workshop, a network of professional photographers addressing the issues of under-representation among black photographers in the art world, early in his career. As the current president of Kamoinge, Inc., his work is widely shown. This solo exhibition is on view at Keith de Lellis Gallery through March 12th. His work is also on view at the Wilmer Jennings Gallery at Kenkeleba, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s current exhibit, Visually Speaking. In addition, his work is featured on the January/February 2016 cover of “Photograph” magazine.
The Keith de Lellis Gallery is located at 1045 Madison Avenue, #3, between 79th and 80th Streets.
7. The Legacy of African American Public Service at The Arsenal Gallery
Despite slavery and prejudice, our country has seen many influential African-American leaders, who have shaped the social, legal and justice systems. In the exhibit The Legacy of African-American Public Service at the Arsenal Gallery, artists offer interpretations on the theme African-Americans in public service in the form of portraits of government officials, activist and those who dedicated their lives for the greater good. This exhibit is presented by NYC Parks Ebony Society.
The legacy of African-American Public Service will be on view through February 26 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, located on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. It is free and open to the public.
6. Oral Histories of the Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn – The Weeksville Collection
image via The Weeksville Collection Timeline
In 1838, James Weeks, an African-American, bought a plot of land in the Ninth Ward of central Brooklyn, just eleven years after the abolition of slavery in New York State. The site was called Weeksville. Its Hunterfly Road Houses are what remain of what was the first free black community during the 19th century. Within this community, the residents built schools and churches. it became a historic settlement of national significance. Of this community, only four frame houses built between 1840 and 1883 survived. The houses were landmarked in 1970, and added to the National Register of Historic places in 1972. Today, Weeksville Heritage Center focuses on historical preservation programs and tours. We recently explored the Lost Jazz Shrines of Brooklyn and oral histories in The Weeksville Collection. Here you will find a timeline offering a chronological overview of the jazz venues in Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Fort Greene from 1919 to 2015, with a brief history connected to each venue. Visit the website for tour information on the historic Hunterfly Road Houses. The Weeksville Heritage Center is located at 158 Buffalo Avenue in Brooklyn
5. Black is Beautiful at Under the Radar Art Series in Harlem
Under the Radar Art Series. Artist, Bob Gumbs
Under the Radar Art Series in Harlem, curated by Barbara Russell, has been exhibiting the work of local artists since 2012. For Black History Month, Ms. Russell has chosen to exhibit artist Robert Gumbs in a solo show, with his series of silhouettes highlighting African-American history and culture. Black is Beautiful will run from February 19 through March 18, with an opening reception on February 19 from 5-7 pm.
Located on the street-level lobby of Physical Therapy of Harlem, the installation is free and open to the public. 1400 Fifth Avenue, entrance on 116th Street. (#2/3 subway to 116th Street).
4. The Harlem Fine Arts Show at Riverside Church
Artist, Leroy Campbell
The Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) is the largest traveling African Diaspora art show in the United States, visiting more than ten cities around the country, showcasing artists and galleries. Beginning the tour in New York’s Riverside Church, the exhibit will run from February 4-7, and include more than 80 artists. In addition, there will be related events including lectures, gospel choir performances, and a scheduled luncheon hosted by Charlene Hunter Gault. Tickets to each event can be purchased through the Harlem Fine Arts Show website.
The Harlem Fine Arts Show will be located at historic Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Avenue at 120th Street.
3. The Hot Five Exhibit at Louis Armstrong House Museum
Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five. image via Louis Armstrong House Museum
The Louis Armstrong House Museum is celebrating Black History Month with the exhibit Hotter Than That – 90 Years of Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. The recordings, which began in 1925, will be on display, including the 78 rpm record of “But Bucket Blues,” the first Hot Five selection issued. Various photographs of Armstrong and the Hot Five during the 1920’s will also be on display. Museum visitors will receive a reproduction scrapbook page from the exhibit. In addition, take a guided tour of the house where Armstrong lived with his wife, Lucille, beginning in 1943.
Located at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, the exhibit will on view from February 1 through February 29. Admission $10.
2. Recognize Black Lives in Green-Wood Cemetery
In honor of Black History Month, on February 27 from 1-3 pm, Green-Wood Cemetery will recognize the black lives that reside in the cemetery. The trolley tour will include the grave sites of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first female black doctor in New York State, the grave site of Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jeremiah Hamilton, New York City’s first black millionaire, as well as other prominent black New Yorkers. $20 for nonmembers.
1. The First Church of Harlem and Newly Discovered Burial Grounds
Reformed Low Dutch Church of Harlem, 1660. image via Harlem CDC website
In keeping with this years theme for Black History Month, “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African-American memories,” we go back in time to 1660 and the first church in Harlem. The Reformed Low Dutch Church of Harlem was later replaced by a more substantial church, with a quarter acre of land connected to the church set aside as the “Negro Burying Ground.” The burial ground, today known as the Harlem African Burial Ground, was in use for about two hundred years, until the land was sold in 1853. The graveyard was paved over in 1811 to make room for New York City’s grid redesign. But in 2008, Department of Transportation employees unearthed the remains while refurbishing a bridge. The bus depot, which is on the graveyard site, was closed in 2014 as a result of community pressure to preserve the site, and the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force has been hard at work with preservation efforts and ideas to commemorate the site. Church records indicate that an unknown number of free, as well as enslaved, Africans from all over Manhattan are buried there.