February is African-American History Month across the country. The African-American contribution to the fame and fortune of Kansas City is indelible. From the founding of the Negro National League in 1920 to the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, the history of the African-American community is an important component of KC. Below is list of special celebrations in February and on-going exhibits that commemorate KC’s rich black history.
American Jazz Museum
Feb. 5 – “Jazz Storytelling: Featuring Lisa Henry, storyteller Brother John, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Michael Warren,” is an educational session introducing children to new music and cultures. Held the first Friday of every month, the event is free and begins at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.americanjazzmuseum.org.
Black Archives of Mid-America
Feb. 6 – “In Search of History: The Night Tulsa Burned,” is a black documentary series with eyewitness accounts, archival films and dramatizations recounted from the 1921 race riots in which the Greenwood District, also known as “The Black Wall Street,” burned to the ground. A group discussion will follow the screening. From the Black Archives Special Collections, this exhibit will focus on photography from some of KC’s more prolific photographers including Matthew Washington and Charles Williams. The event is free (with RSVP), beginning at 2 p.m.
Feb. 11 – “The Color of Freedom is Green: Black Entrepreneurship & Economic Empowerment.” This Horace Peterson III lecture series featuring Steven Washington teaches audiences around the country how to start a business on a budget. From imports and exports to real estate investment, Washington has launched several successful businesses. The event is free (with RSVP), beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30.
Feb. 13 – “Script-in-Hand Reading of The Island by Athol Fugard” – The Kansas City Actors Theater in partnership with the Black Archives of Mid-America are hosting a special script-in-hand reading of “The Island,” the story of two prisoners who are rehearsing a performance of Sophocles’ Antigone in their prison cell. When one learns the other’s prison sentence is being reduced, the men’s friendship is tested. The event is free (with RSVP), beginning with a reception at 2 p.m. and the program at 2:30.
Feb. 17 – “Community Stories” – Vewiser Dixon will discuss how he is currently building “a black Silicon Valley” just south of the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. The community stories program was designed to connect with key African-American citizens living in and around the Kansas City area who can offer new insight and/or counter-narratives regarding both historical and current events. The interviews are recorded for the Archives collection and used for further research and study of African-American life and history. The event is free (with RSVP), beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30.
Feb. 19 – “Mbembe Milton Smith Poetry Series featuring Kamilah Aisha Moon,” shares new work from Moon’s forthcoming second book. Moon has been featured in several journals and anthologies, including Harvard Review, jubilat, Poem-A-Day for the Academy of American Poets, Oxford American, LUMINA journal, Callaloo and Essence magazine. The event is free (with RSVP), beginning with a reception at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30.
Feb. 25 –“2016 Black History Month Luncheon: A Celebration of Black Entrepreneurship with Egypt Sherrod.” Named “America’s most beloved real estate agent,” Sherrod is host of HGTV’s all new “Flipping Virgins” and its top-rated show, “Property Virgins,” which ran for 16 seasons. The luncheon runs 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., at The Gallery, 61 E. 14th St.
To RSVP for any event listed, go to www.blackarchives.org.
The Coterie Theatre
Jan. 26-Feb. 21 – “And Justice for Some: The Freedom Trial of Anthony Burns (1858)” is a play based on a true story with an interactive twist. Anthony Burns escaped slavery, and despite a fierce defense trial, he was returned to his Southern master. You participate as a member of the 1858 Massachusetts State Senate and decide if the judge had other options. For show times and tickets, go to www.thecoterie.org. All shows performed at The Coterie Theatre, 2450 Grand Blvd., Ste. 144.
Kansas City Public Library
This month, the Library will host a “Black History Month Book-to-Film Series,” in partnership with UMKC’s Black Studies program and the Black Archives of Mid-America. The series of screenings includes four memorable films adapted from books by African-American authors. Unless otherwise noted, receptions start at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP, go to kclibrary.org.
Feb. 4 – “Beloved,” Plaza Branch
Feb. 7 – “The Color Purple,” UMKC Miller Nichols Library (1:30 p.m. reception, 2 p.m. program)
Feb. 18 – “Disappearing Acts,” Plaza Branch
Feb. 21 – “The Women of Brewster Place” UMKC Miller Nichols Library (1:30 p.m. reception, 2 p.m. program.)
Feb. 3 – “This Is Not Dixie,” is a discussion of the new book, This is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927, by author and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Associate Professor Brent M.S. Campney exposing the reality of the era. The event is free at the Central Library Branch with a reception at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30.
Feb. 12 – “History of African-American Cowboys.” While the best known cowboys of the Old West were white, it’s believed one in four were African-American. Through storytelling and song, vocalist and cultural historian Brother John Anderson helps young audience members explore their history. The event is free at the Plaza Branch at 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 – “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” is part of the PBS-backed Indie Lens Pop-Up community cinema initiative. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson takes a deep, clear-eyed look at the Black Panther Party and its significance to American culture in his latest film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. This screening is co-presented by KCPT-TV and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The event is free at the Plaza Branch at 11 a.m.
Feb. 25 – “Desegregating the Swope Park Swimming Pool,” is a discussion around the burgeoning struggle for equality by a 1951 case (three years before the Supreme Court’s ruling against school segregation in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka) in Kansas City to force the city to end racial segregation at the Swope Park swimming pool. Discussion led by Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Alvin Brooks, and moderated by Steve Kraske. Co-presented by KCUR, the Federal Court Historical Society of Western Missouri and the Urban League of Kansas City. The event is free at the Plaza Branch with a reception at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30.
To RSVP for any event listed, go to www.kclibrary.org.
Mid-Continent Public Library
Feb. 4 & 9 – “Born a Slave” – Local historian David W. Jackson discovered his great-great- grandfather was born a slave. Jackson traces the path that led him to this revelation. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m. RSVPs are requested.
Feb. 8-10, 13, 18 & 25 – “Negro Leagues Baseball: The Deep Roots of African-Americans in America’s Great Game” – Kevin Mitchell, author of Last Train to Cooperstown, illuminates the rich history of Negro League baseball, which launched the legendary careers of Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neill and all the members of the Kansas City Monarchs. Free with RSVP; adults only please. Times vary by location.
Feb. 27 – “A History of Military Service by African-Americans” – This special event on researching your African-American ancestry during the Civil War period allows participants to utilize the library with the assistance of genealogists at the completion of the session. The event is free at 11 a.m. RSVPs requested.
To register for events, go to www.mymcpl.org/blackhistory and to check the website for event locations.
The National Archives at Kansas City
Feb. 4 – Screening and discussion of the “Spies of Mississippi,” documentary presented in partnership with Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group and in conjunction with the 20th Century Civil Rights and Liberties documentary film series. Post film discussion will be led by Dr. Rebecca Miller Davis of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A reception will precede the lecture at 6 p.m., with the screening at 6:30 p.m. The event is free, but reservations are required via 816-268-8010 or email@example.com. For more information, go to www.archives.gov/kansas-city.
National World War I Museum and Memorial
Feb. 29 – “George S. Robb: From Salina to Park University to Pershing’s 100 Heroes of the War” is part of the Park University Spencer Cave Black History Month lecture and is supported by the Organization of American Historians and the Black Archives of Mid-America. The event at 7 p.m. is free but RSVP is required.
On-going –“Make Way for Democracy” – This online exhibition portrays the lives of African-Americans during the war through a series of rare images, documents and objects and explores efforts to redefine citizenship, while improving social, political and economic conditions.
The permanent exhibit showcases African-American men serving in cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer and artillery units, as well as serving as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists and intelligence officers and African-American women who were employed in a number of war industries, including munitions production. For more information about upcoming events, go to www.theworldwar.org.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Feb. 25 – “The Sweet Flypaper of Life and the Changing Face of Photobooks” – This talk with curator April M. Watson discusses this important collaborative publication by photographer Roy DeCarava and writer Langston Hughes. The discussion takes place at 6 p.m. in Spencer Art Reference Library.
Through April 3 – “Through the Lens,” this exhibition features work by seven photographers who framed various facets of African-American experience during the 1950s and 1960s. Free.
“Goodnight Irene,” a Charles White painting that once belonged to legendary performer and activist Harry Belafonte has been acquired for the permanent American collection. This acquisition highlights The Nelson’s seminal works of African-American art.
The museum’s acclaimed African collection comprises approximately 300 objects that are diverse in form and in media. Masks, sculptures, hair combs, headrests, textiles and vessels are among the many types of works represented; media include fiber, metal, wood, beads and clay.
For more information, go to www.nelson-atkins.org
Located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, this is where jazz masters such as Charlie Parker, Count Basie and hundreds of others defined the sounds of the 1920s, 30s and 40s in Kansas City. The museum includes interactive exhibits and educational programs.
Best known for his portraits of jazz performers, fellow artists and other creative individuals, Frederick James Brown created the Kemper Museum's monumental work “The History of Art” (1994/2000), a series of 110 paintings that lines the walls of Café Sebastienne. The exhibition features paintings from the Kemper Museum's permanent collection, a significant holder of the artist's works. www.kemperart.org
Located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, the Foundation was originally home to the Black Musicians' Protective Union Local 627 American Federation of Musicians. This national historic landmark hosts fierce late-night jam sessions on Fridays and Saturdays. www.thefoundationjamson.org
This state-of-the-art facility houses more than 50,000 cubic feet of original federal records from more than 100 agencies within the Central Plains region including Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The 20th Century Civil Rights and Liberties documentary film series continues with “The Night Tulsa Burned” on April 21 and “The Power Broker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” on June 9. A reception will precede the lecture at 6 p.m., with the screening at 6:30 p.m. This event will be held at the National Archives, 400 W Pershing Rd. It is free, but reservations are required via 816-268-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.archives.gov/kansas-city.
The 10,000 square-foot multimedia exhibit is the world’s only museum that chronicles the history and heroes of the Negro Leagues from their origin after the Civil War to their demise in the 1960s. www.nlbm.com
Located on the Missouri River, Quindaro began as a boomtown and evolved into a stop on the Underground Railroad. Artifacts are on display at the Wyandotte County Museum. www.wycokck.org