Washington DC Celebrates Black History Month 2017

Events Honoring African American History in the Nation's Capital

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Washington, DC celebrates Black History Month each February and remembers the contributions of African Americans in the United States with numerous events and cultural programs. Here are some special events and relevant places to visit in Washington, DC to remember and recognize the history of Black Americans.

Martin Luther King Memorial - The National Memorial honors the life and contributions made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ranger talks are given regularly and highlight historic facts about the Civil Rights leader. Visit the Memorial during Black History Month and learn something new.

National Museum of African American History and Culture - Due to the popularity of the new museum, timed passes are required. The museum features a variety of exhibits and educational programs on topics such as slavery, post-Civil War reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights movement. The U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) performs chamber works by such composers as H. Leslie Adams, Valerie Coleman and Alvin Singleton on February 26, 2017, at 3 p.m. The concert will be followed by a discussion and Q&A.

Registration is strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcome. 

National Museum of the American Indian - February 18, 2017, 2 p.m. Celebrate Black History Month with a concert by Garifuna artist and historian James Lovell. The music is a lively manifestation of the Afro-Carib-Arawak mix found along the Caribbean coast of Central America.

National Museum of American History - February 25, 2017, 2–3 p.m.Cooking Up History: Food and the Great Migration.  This food demonstration features Chef Jerome Grant of Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture preparing recipes and discussing how African Americans preserved southern “soul food” traditions in the urban North.

The museum also has an exhibit Snapshots of African American Communities that features a display of 25 photographs that reflect the diversity of the African American experience. The photos come from two collections in the Museum’s Archives Center that depict special occasions and everyday life in African American communities: the Scurlock Studio Collection and the Fournet Drug Store.

International Spy Museum - February 4, 2017. 11-11:30 am or 1-1:30 pm. Slave Spy: The Story of James Lafayette. In this original one-act play, combining live performance with film, Jamar Jones portrays James Lafayette the brave patriot who passed as a runaway slave to gather information from the British in the Revolutionary War. Free event. 

Frederick Douglass Birthday Event - February 17-18, 2017. The National Park Service celebrates Douglass' birthday with events at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Anacostia Arts Center, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, the Islamic Heritage Museum and Cultural Center and the Anacostia Playhouse. The birthday celebration features an array of programs and activities dedicated to increasing the public’s knowledge of Douglass’ life. All programs are free and are open to the public.

National Archives - Celebrate Black History Month in February with special films, public programs, and lectures. These programs are open to the public and will be held at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC and at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

DC Public Library - Throughout the month of February, the DC Public Library offers special programs celebrating Black History Month. Programs include art exhibits, jazz concerts, book discussions, theatrical workshops and more.

Anacostia Community Museum - Throughout the year, the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of African American history and culture offers exhibitions, educational programs, workshops, lectures, film screenings and other special events that interpret black history from the 1800s to the present. The museum will host discussions with Smithsonian curators Leslie Urena, Camen Ramos and Ariana Curtis on February 18, 2017, 1 p.m. “Gateways: Curator’s Conversation” will discuss the interconnections of black and Latino history as seen in the exhibition “Gateways”.

The program is free, but registration is required.

George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate - Throughout the month of February Mount Vernon will honor the slaves who lived and worked at George Washington's estate with a daily 12 p.m. wreathlaying at the Slave Memorial. On Saturdays and Sundays in February, visitors learn about life as a slave with Silla and Slammin' Joe, two of Washington's slaves, at the recently-opened slave cabin. Tom Davis, an enslaved brickmaker, presents his perspective on Saturdays and Sundays in the greenhouse at 2:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. The Marquis de Lafayette talks about his efforts to end slavery in the Greenhouse on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. All Black History Month events are included in the regular admission price to the estate.

Arlington House - 1:30 p.m., Sundays and Saturdays throughout February. Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, will present special guided tours in recognition of African American History month. Visitors can explore the newly restored historic North slaves’ quarters and learn about the enslaved population living at the Arlington estate on the eve of the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln Birthday Observance - February 12, 2017, noon. Lincoln Memorial, 23rd & Constitution Ave., NW Washington, DC. Honor Abraham Lincoln at a Presidential wreath laying ceremony and a dramatic reading of the "Gettysburg Address." For more information, call (202) 619-7222.

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum - This Washington, DC site honors and examines the African American's heroic struggle for freedom and civil rights. The memorial is the only one in the United States to honor Colored Troops (USCT) who served in the Civil War. The museum uses photographs, documents and state of the art audio visual equipment to educate visitors about this important part of American history.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site - 1411 W St. SE, Washington, DC. Tours of the historic home are available daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Frederick Douglass’ birthday will be celebrated on February 12-13 with music, presentations, programs on the history of Anacostia, children’s activities, and lots of talk about the books he wrote, the books he read, and how reading and writing can change the world.

Black History Month Cruise Aboard the Spirit of Washington - February 25, 2017. Take an educational and entertaining lunch cruise to remember those who have influenced African-American culture. This cruise will feature DJ in tribute to Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Diana Ross, Prince and much more. The cruise boards at 11:00 a.m. and cruises from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The cost is $52.90 per adult, $31.95 ages 3-12.

Josiah Henson Historic Site - 11420 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD.

Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will celebrate Black History Month with free guided tours. Retrace Reverend Josiah Henson’s footsteps from his enslavement on Isaac Riley’s plantation to his escape on the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada. Henson’s extraordinary life was documented in his 1849 autobiography that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.

African Descent American History Month Liberation Tour  -  February 18, 2017, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Celebrate African Descent American History month with an 8 hour bus tour through time to experience the liberations of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass who were both born on the nearby eastern shore of Maryland with Living Historians who portray significant individuals from their liberations. Tour begins at the African American Civil War Memorial, 1925 Vermont Ave NW. Washington, DC.