The Free Library is proud to honor Black History Month!
We’ll be celebrating, learning, and reflecting together, with a multitude of programs for the whole family at neighborhood libraries across the city. Explore local history on the Free Library’s blog, where you can find a firsthand account of Dr. King’s visit to Philadelphia, learn more about the legacy of local hat-maker extraordinaire Mae Reeves, or discover opportunities for youth activists. Dig into the blog archives to learn more about historical figures honored during Black History Month and the culture and achievements of African American's past and present.
This February also marks the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which explicitly stated that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race. This amendment later served as the legal grounds for the fight for civil rights begun in the 1950s and spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The theme of this year’s Black History Month is "African Americans and the Vote."
Want to learn more about the history, experiences, contributions, and struggles of Black people in the United States? Explore the Free Library’s collection of African American History resources.
Be sure to visit the Free Library to commemorate Black History and culture with storytellers and read-alouds, creative crafts, music-making, film-screenings, and more. Below is just a sampling of Black History Month events this February.
Events for Kids and Families:
Hands-on History Presents: The Elite of Our People
Saturday, February 8 at 10:00 a.m. | Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library
Handle rarely seen photographs, illustrations, and documents that illustrate some of the schools, churches, and entertainment that middle-class African Americans enjoyed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and discuss how these objects speak to today's Philadelphia. Curiosity seekers of all ages are welcome! Reservations are suggested.
After hearing the story Parker Looks Up, in which a young girl discovers the painted portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, children will have the opportunity to draw on their own portraits.
"That’s what she loves about Motown, the way it asks you to carry sadness and heartbreak but dance while doing so..." - There There.
Through a songwriting activity, get a feel for the recording artists and songwriting styles that defined Motown and appear on the radio today. This workshop is led by Ali Richardson and is inspired by the 2020 One Book, One Philadelphia selection, There There, by Tommy Orange.
Storyteller, performance poet, and singer Vernyce Dannells brings stories from a broad diaspora of delights for an afternoon of enjoyable discovery.
Black History Month Road Trip Activity
Wednesday, February 26 at 4:00 p.m. | Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library
Children will learn about what travel was like for African Americans during the 1950s. Then we will use our imagination to take our own road trip!
Events for Teen and Adults:
Join us for a screening of the documentary, Invisible Warriors, featuring a diverse group of African American "Rosie the Riveters" who recount what life was during the war. Followed by a conversation with Gregory S. Cooke, the director of the film.
Monday Poets, Octavia McBride-Ahebee & Sekai'afua Zankel
Monday, February 10 at 6:30 p.m. | Heim Center at Parkway Central Library
Now in its 24th year, the Monday Poets Reading Series showcases a variety of talented poets with local and national reputations. Octavia McBride-Ahebee’s work presents human relationships within the context of global inequality. Her poetry collections include Assuming Voices (2003), Where My Birthmark Dances (2011), and most recently, Praise Song for the Gravediggers (2019). Sekai'afua Zankel is the author of Behind These Eyes/Optical Poems. Her poems have been published in various magazines and journals including CAP, Poetry Ink, and Apiary.
More than a book talk, this program incorporates passages from the book, as well as historical and contemporary insights, audio and video clips, and more for a richer understanding of She Came to Slay.
Limited Seating, Ticketed Events:
Lunchtime Talk with Trapeta B. Mayson | Poetic Musings on Toni Morrison
Tuesday, February 4 at 12:30 p.m | The Rosenbach
Through original poems and audience dialogue, 2019–2020 Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson will discuss the impact of Toni Morrison’s work on African-American women writers and explore the themes of race, class, and gender in Morrison’s work.
Purchase tickets ».
My General Tubman with a Post-Show Playwright and Director Q&A
Wednesday, February 19 at 6:30 p.m. | Arden Theatre Co., 40 N 2nd Street
Join fellow Free Library cardholders to watch the world premiere of the Arden Theatre's My General Tubman, an exciting new play about the complex journey of Harriet Tubman and the impact she continues to have today. Then, hear a cast talk-back, followed by a private Q&A and reception with playwright Lorene Cary and the play’s director, James Ijames.
Library cardholders receive a special discount to the show, and a limited amount of no-cost tickets are available to cardholders with an inability to pay. All spots are very limited—get your tickets soon!
The evening will highlight the lives and voices of Amiri Baraka, Jayne Cortez, Ted Joans, and Bob Kaufman—four Black Beats who performed along the continuum of poetry and music and carved out legacies of radical art and action. Poet Warren Longmire will read from his work and vocussionist Bethlehem will deliver a performance on her tarima/platform drum. Yolanda Wisher and the Afroeaters will conclude the evening with a special set of Beat poetry classics against bebop backdrops.