The city of Philadelphia recognizes and reflects on the role that African-Americans played — and continue to play — in the history of our nation all year long, and Black History Month inspires even more celebration across the region.
During February, many of Philadelphia’s beloved institutions will hold special events, film screenings, discussions and exhibits that highlight the incredible lives and contributions of African-Americans like Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Octavius V. Catto, Henry “Box” Brown and Harriet Tubman.
Read on for our guide to the museum exhibits, interactive tours, film screenings, illustrated lectures, live performances and more happening all around Philadelphia during Black History Month.
A lecture on the Harlem Renaissance, a conversation with author Brittney Cooper about her book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, a screening of the film Paul Robeson and more exciting events are lined up for Black History Month at public libraries across Philadelphia. For a complete list of events, see the calendar here.
At the National Constitution Center, interactive programming highlights important moments in African-American history. Self-guided tours showcase the many rare artifacts on display, including the signed Emancipation Proclamation and items from former President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Hear the inspiring stories of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, Revolutionary War hero Ned Hector and other barrier-breaking African-Americans at the Independence Visitor Center.
The Penn Museum’s vast collection of African sculpture, masks, textiles and other objects make it an excellent destination for Black History Month. On February 24, the museum will hold its annual Celebration of African Cultures, where visitors can take part in an interactive tour of African traditions led through the Africa Gallery by local storytellers and artisans.
Nine large sculptures, designed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and incorporating quotes from King as creative inspiration, are on display throughout Philadelphia through the end of February. The sculptures — created by more than 50 students — are located at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Betsy Ross House, City Hall, the Comcast Center Plaza, the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia School District Main Building and Temple University.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia debuts Black Pulp!, a visual overview of the Black experience that spans from the early twentieth-century America to today. While there, visitors should also check out the permanent display entitled Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876, an exhibit that tells the stories of early black Philadelphians that shaped the region’s history.
Henry “Box” Brown — a slave who read and wrote poetry, sang in a church choir and practiced magic and hypnosis — mailed himself from Virginia to Philadelphia in 1849 and performed all around the world once freed. See hip-hop legend Karl “Dice Raw” Jenkins star in this musical about Brown’s fascinating life for a limited time at the New Freedom Theatre.
On the first day of Black History Month, author and historian Judith L. Van Buskirk teams up with the Museum of the American Revolution for an illustrated lecture that explores the lives and stories of African-American Revolutionaries. For Buskirk’s latest book, Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution, she consulted Revolutionary War pension records to shed light on the thousands of African-American men and women who joined the Revolutionary cause. This enlightening discussion will also dive into how Black Revolutionary War soldiers were central to shifting society’s views on slavery at the time.
more about “Standing in their own light” at the Museum of the American Revolution
Broadcaster and author Tavis Smiley presents a live multi-media stage presentation of his New York Times Bestseller, Death of A King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Take part in one of the largest single-day events promoting literacy, recognition of African-American children’s literature and African-American authors at the African American Children’s Book Fair at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Visitors can enjoy the world music as presented by Temple University students during Drumming Traditions of Brazil, West Africa, and India.
more about Drumming Traditions of Brazil, West Africa, and India
More than 2,300 first-person accounts of former slaves were documented in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). The Slave Narratives brings the enslaved experience to life at Venice Island Performing Arts Recreation Center.
Head to Reading Terminal Market — the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market — for free cooking demonstrations, live entertainment and more at its Black History Month Celebration on February 10.
more about the Black History Month celebration at Reading Terminal Market
Enjoy brunch with a side of history at the Saint Malachy Catholic Community’s 4th Black History Month Brunch. This year, the topic is Recognizing The Harlem Renaissance: A Celebration of Black Creativity.
Head to Mother Bethel AME Church for a screening of the documentary Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement. The film highlights the accomplishments of Black men and women in theatre, the importance of the Black Arts Movement and the funding crisis of Black theatres.
more about The Mother Bethel AME Church
Now in its 22nd year, the Schomburg Symposium is an annual Taller Puertorriqueño conference dedicated to Afro-Latino history and culture. This year’s symposium theme: Does Violence Have Color?
The William Way LGBT Community Center’s 2nd Annual Philly Black Trans History: A Multigenerational Panel Discussion will feature some of the city’s most influential trans pioneers.
more about The William Way LGBT Community Center
There’s no shortage of African-American culture and history to experience in Philadelphia. The successes, struggles and contributions of African-Americans through the centuries are highlighted through programming and exhibits at institutions like the African-American Museum in Philadelphia, the Penn Museum, the National Liberty Museum and many more.
Support African-American store owners and designers by shopping this Black History Month. Swing by The Sable Collective for self-care beauty buys and housewares adorned with positive affirmations or stop in Cultured Couture Vintage for sophisticated name-brand vintage menswear. For denim lovers, head to Charlie’s Jeans in Old City for flattering jeans in a variety styles and washes.
Make a point to dine out at one (or more!) of the many black-owned restaurants during Black History Month. Dos Tacos, 48th Street Grille, Relish and Aksum Cafe all offer appetizing options.
Intriguing and innovative art can be found all over Philadelphia, including at forward-thinking black-owned galleries. This month, see what’s on display at galleries like the Tiberino Museum, Rush Arts Philly (the gallery of renowned artist Danny Simmons), the Bazemore Gallery and more.
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.