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Black History Month 2021

Lunch counter display
A section of the Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro, North Carolina, where on February 1, 1960, four Black college students nonviolently protested segregation, inspiring young people nationwide to become active in creating a better future.

As the National Museum of American History recognizes Black History Month this February, we also remember the original intent of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson when he drove the creation of Negro History Week in 1926 to create a platform to promote Black history when it was ignored in most history books. We agree with recent calls in the field of public history that "museums are not neutral" and that our memory of the past has power to affect people’s lives—both in the present and in the way they navigate the future.

We believe Black History Month is an important opportunity to revisit our shared past in a way that is inclusive of all people in the United States. As we celebrate the achievements of African Americans, we also acknowledge the important work necessary to mitigate the harms of the past and commit to using history to empower people toward a more compassionate future.

 
Over the month of February 2021, the museum will present a variety of programs in honor of Black History Month, in addition to sharing material from our incredible African American history collections on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pandemic Perspectives 

Race and Place: Yellow Fever and the Free African Society in Philadelphia 
February 2, 4 p.m. 

Join curators and historians for a series of panels offering perspectives on the current pandemic. Panelists will virtually share objects from the past, using them as a springboard to a discussion of how to better understand the present. Audience questions are encouraged.

Moderator: 
Alexandra Lord, National Museum of American History

Panelists: 
Billy Smith, Montana State University 
David Barnes, University of Pennsylvania 
Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble, George Washington University 

Social Studies Online: Black History Month 

February 4, 11 a.m.

Join the National Museum of American History for an online exploration into key social studies topics, featuring museum resources from the Smithsonian. This episode will focus on Black History Month. 

Moderator:
Orlando Serrano, National Museum of American History 

Panelists: 
Christopher Wilson, National Museum of American History 
Mary Elliot, National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Innovative Lives: Jessica O. Matthews 

February 10, 4 p.m. 

The Lemelson Center’s Innovative Lives series engages audiences in public conversations with diverse inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs about their pioneering work and careers. This month we’re joined by Nigerian-American inventor, CEO, and venture capitalist Jessica O. Matthews. Matthews is the co-founder of Uncharted Power, and inventor of Soccket, a soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy of the ball during normal game play and stores it to be used as a power generator. 

Pandemic Perspectives

Essential Workers: Prestige Versus Pay 
February 16, 4 p.m. 

Join curators and historians for a series of panels offering perspectives on the current pandemic. Panelists will virtually share objects from the past, using them as a springboard to a discussion of how to better understand the present. Audience questions are encouraged. 

Moderator: 
Alexandra Lord, National Museum of American History 

Panelists: 
Peter Liebhold, National Museum of American History 
Molly Kinder, Brookings Institute 
Jacob Remes, New York University, Gallatin 

Social Studies Online: Inventors

February 18, 11 a.m.  

Join the National Museum of American History for an online exploration into key social studies topics, featuring museum resources from the Smithsonian.

Moderator: 
Orlando Serrano, National Museum of American History 

Panelists: 
Crystal Moten, National Museum of American History 
Eric Hintz, National Museum of American History 
Eden Cho, National Museum of American History 

Day of Remembrance 2021

FACEism: A panel discussion of history and accountability 
February 19, 6 p.m. 

The program will focus on issues of race, inequity, and justice and explore how Americans currently understand, experience, and confront racism, its impact on communities and how that impact is shaping America and its value. This year features David Ono’s documentary called “FACEism” to examine the often-ignored history, erase stereotyping and move toward a better understanding of each other and the challenges facing the nation today. 

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like: Viral Histories II

February 26, 1 p.m. 

In this live virtual conversation, the National Museum of American History asks audiences: "What does democracy look like today?" The museum will present a live virtual conversation focusing on undocumented organizers and how they are expanding democratic practice. It is centered on five topics from its testimonial video series, ranging from mutual aid groups formed by undocumented communities to survive Covid-19; the impact of the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks on immigrant communities; the DREAM Act; deportation, detention and policing policies and the organizing across identities by various communities of color and LGBTQ groups.  

Charlie Parker Centennial 

February 26, 7 p.m. 

In his short life, legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker changed the world of music, creating with a small group of innovators the musical style called bop or bebop. Like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, he was a pioneering composer and improviser who ushered in a new era of jazz and influenced later generations of musicians and artists. 

Join SJMO’s artistic director and conductor Charlie Young, Dwandalyn R. Reece, curator of Music and Performing Arts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Bobby Watson from the American Jazz Museum as they take us back in time to hear the Grammy Award-winning Parker’s sound and to understand how his brilliance and charisma had an impact on the course of music like no other. 

In partnership with the Smithsonian Associates.