Celebrate 2020 Black History Month in Kansas City
Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is a national celebration that recognizes the accomplishments of black Americans throughout American history. Locally, this celebration recognizes the countless African Americans who shaped KC’s cultural institutions, from chronicling their participation in the Great War to the founding of the Negro National League in 1920.
Past, present and future, the African American community is vital to Kansas City’s story. Below is list of special celebrations in February and ongoing exhibits that commemorate KC’s rich black history.
- Feb. 9 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner | Staring Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was considered groundbreaking for containing a positive representation of the controversial subject of interracial marriage. 4 p.m. $10. Tickets
- Feb. 18 – Get Out | This 2017 film directed by Jordan Peele won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and has been called one of the most influential films of the decade. 9:30 p.m. $10. Tickets
- Feb. 24 – Boomerang | Directed by Reginald Hudlin, Boomerang stars an almost all-black cast and crew, including Halle Berry, Eddie Murphy, Grace Jones, Chris Rock, David Alan Grier, Eartha Kitt and Martin Lawrence. 7 p.m. $10. Tickets
- Feb. 3 – BOSS Film Screening and No Turning Back Exhibition Reception | An edited screening of BOSS: The Black Experience in Business is the untold story of African American entrepreneurship. No Turning Back: The Growth of Black Women Entrepreneurs is an exhibition highlighting the research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of KC on the characteristics, challenges and trends for black women business owners in the U.S. A free reception precedes the exhibition, followed by the screening. This event is in partnership with The Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group, The National Archives of Kansas City and Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet. 5:30 p.m. Free. The Money Museum, 1 Memorial Drive
- Feb. 7 – Jazz Storytelling | Featuring an internationally renowned cast, vocalist Lisa Henry, storyteller Brother John, bassist Tyrone Clark and drummer Michael Warren, this event introduces children to new music and cultures. Held the first Friday of every month. 10 a.m. Free.
- Feb. 7 – First Fridays on the Vine | A cultural experience of music, art, food and shopping—all on the Vine. 4 p.m. Free.
- Feb. 9 – Black History Month Program: African Americans & The Vote | This program will feature a discussion between Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross and former KCMO Mayor Sly James, moderated by Michelle Tyrene Johnson from KCUR. The event is held in partnership with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the founders of Black History Month, the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group and the Museums at 18th & Vine. 3:30 p.m. Free. American Jazz Museum. RSVP
- Feb. 23 – Miles Davis: Birth of Cool | This film screening explores why musician Miles Davis continues to be a relevant voice in today’s world. The work features archival photos, home movies and interviews with well-known musicians. This screening is presented in partnership with the American Jazz Museum, KCPT, National Archives at Kansas City, Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group. 3:30 p.m. Free. Gem Theater. RSVP required.
- For full list of events or for more information, call 816-842-1414 or visit americanjazzmuseum.org.
- Feb. 15 – Annual Black History Month Luncheon, “The Legacy Lives: There’s No Stopping Us Now,” Keynote Mayor Quinton Lucas | Pierson Auditorium on the UMKC Campus. 11:30 a.m. Tickets begin at $50.
- For more information, or purchase tickets, go to blackarchives.org.
- Feb. 27 – Setting the Stage: The Moving Story of African American Dance | Setting the Stage is a visual journey through African American dance history. This multimedia story of African American dance is interwoven into the broader tapestry of history. Setting the Stage is performed by talented local and national artists demonstrating the evolution of American dance styles since the Middle Passage and chronicles historically important dancers and choreographers including Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey. 7 p.m. Free. The Gem Theater.
- For more information, kcfaa.org.
- Feb. 3 – Eddie Murphy Raw | This legendary standup show kicks of the Central Library’s monthly matinee Murphy Monday series. 2 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 5 – The Defiant Ones | Central Cinema Nights presents: Celebrating Sidney Poitier. 6:30 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 9 – The Dizzy and Daffy Dean Barnstorming Tour: Race, Media and America’s National Pastime | Baseball historian Phil Dixon revisits the 1934 tour and the man all-star players and future Hall of Famers who participated. Dixon also examines how the media’s biased coverage of the tour downplayed the contributions of black players and perpetuated racism in American sports. 2 p.m. Free, but RSVP required. Central Library.
- Feb. 10 – 48 Hrs. | Central Library’s monthly matinee Murphy Monday series. 2 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 12 – Book Discussion: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria | Beverly Tatum leads this book discussion. Limited free copies of this book are available. To reserve your copy in advance, contact Beth Edson at 816-701-3682. 6:30 p.m. Free. Lucile H. Bluford Branch.
- Feb. 12 – Lilies of the Field | Central Cinema Nights presents: Celebrating Sidney Poitier. 6:30 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 13 – Always in Season | This 2019 documentary sensitively explores the lingering impact of the lynching of African Americans. This screening is made possible by the Library and KCPT as part of the Indie Lens Pop-Up. Discussion follows. Free, but RSVP required.
- Feb. 19 – In the Heat of the Night | Central Cinema Nights presents: Celebrating Sidney Poitier. 6:30 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 24 – Brother John Duo | Brother John returns to the library with a program of classic tunes that celebrate cultural awareness, champion freedom, diversity and unity. Noon. Free. Central Branch in Kirk Hall.
- Feb. 24 – Harlem Nights | Conclusion of the Central Library’s monthly matinee Murphy Monday series. 2 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 26 – Buck and the Preacher | Central Cinema Nights presents: Celebrating Sidney Poitier. 6:30 p.m. Free. Central Branch Durwood Film Vault.
- Feb. 28 – Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror | This documentary traces the history of black Americans in Hollywood within the horror genre. Discussion follows screening. Food, beverages and parking validation provided. In partnership with Black Privilege. 5:30 p.m. Free, but RSVP required. Adults only. Central Library.
- Feb. 28 – John Henry Man, Myth & Legend is a musical journey led by Brother John Anderson on the life and times of John Henry – through the eyes of his father, Preacher Henry. Ages 5 and up. Free, but RSVP required. 6:30 p.m. Plaza Branch.
- For more information on these events or to RSVP, go to kclibrary.org.
- Jan. 30-31 – Störling Dance Theater's UNDERGROUND | Celebrate Störling Dance Theater’s 13th anniversary of presenting the story of the Underground Railroad told like never before. 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30.
- Feb. 1 – Kauffman Center Presents Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band | A quirky mix of New Orleans-inspired jazz, folk, Americana and contemporary music. 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $29 to $49.
- For more information or to purchase tickets, go to kauffmancenter.org.
- Feb. 3 – George Washington Carver: America’s Leonardo da Vinci | Join rangers from the George Washington Carver National Monument for a look at Carver’s life, his efforts to help African American farmers, and his contributions to American society. All ages. 2 p.m. at Midwest Genealogy Center. 6 p.m. at North Independence. Click here to register.
- Feb. 5, 15, 20 – The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers | Experience the history of the African American Buffalo Soldiers and discover how they distinguished themselves from the American Frontier battlefields of WWII. Various branches and times. Click here to register.
- Feb. 6 – Blacks in Blue at the Battle of Westport | This discussion covers the Battle of Westport and the substantial role of African Americans and heroism under trying conditions. 6 p.m. at North Independence. To register, click here.
- Feb. 8, 18, March 14 – Underground Railroad: The Who, What and Where Did it Go? | Cultural historian Brother John shares the secret codes, symbols, agents and songs of the Underground Railroad, as well as added insight into this chapter in America's history. Various branches and times. Click here to register.
- Feb. 11, 22, 24 – Military Service by African Americans | African American military service history began with Colonial America. Most are familiar with Tuskegee Airmen, Civil War and Buffalo Soldiers. This presentation will help define the locations of veteran records dates and times vary by location. To register, click here.
- Feb. 18, April 1 – Born a Slave | His family has been identified as Caucasian for five generations, but after more than 30 years of genealogical research, local historian David W. Jackson discovered his great-great-grandfather was born a slave. Jackson traces the path that led him to this revelation and how his experience could offer insights to other genealogy researchers. Dates and times vary by location. To register, click here.
- Feb. 21, 22 – Tommy Terrific’s Black Cowboys of the Old West | Tommy Terrific's Wacky Magic will perform an educational magic show about the Black Cowboys of the Old West. All ages. Dates and times vary by location. To register, click here.
- Feb. 25 – Cotton, Rag Dolls and the Underground Railroad | Kansas City’s connection to the Underground Railroad runs deep. Hear stories about the people who helped escaped slaves travel to freedom in the North and discover the importance rag dolls played in the journey. Ages 6 and up. 6:30 p.m. at Smithville. To register, click here.
- All events listed are free. For full list of events, black history online resources, or for more info, go to mymcpl.org/events/black-history-month.
- Feb. 18 – Film Screening and Discussion of True Justice | The HBO-produced documentary explores the life and most memorable cases of Bryan Stevenson, an Alabama public interest lawyer, advocate for incarcerated people. This film sparks critical conversations about the history of racial injustice in America and compels us to confront the ways it continues to permeate American society. This screening is held in collaboration with the National Archives, the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group, and Park University. 6 p.m. Free, but reservations requested by calling 816-268-8010. National Archives, 400 W Pershing Rd.
- Feb. 26 – The War Within: Race and Vietnam with Dr. Beth Bailey | This event will discuss race during the war through the stories of those who lived it. This program is in conjunction with the exhibition, The Vietnam War: 1945-1975, a traveling show from the New York Historical Society on view at the National WWI Museum and Memorial. This screening is held in collaboration with the National Archives and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. 6:30 p.m. National WWI Museum and Memorial, 2 Memorial Dr. Free, but reservations requested.
- Feb. 13 – Black Baseball in Living Color: The Art of Graig Kreindler | The opening reception of Kreindler’s exhibit features more than 200 color studies of legendary Negro Leaguers and early-era black and Hispanic baseball players. Tickets
- Feb. 14-July 5 – Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali: The Image of a Champion | Organized by The Nelson-Atkins in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, this exhibit features approximately 55 photographs Parks took of Ali while on assignment for Life magazine. Free.
- For more information, go to nelson-atkins.org.
The American Jazz Museum, located in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District, 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. americanjazzmuseum.org
Hundreds of historic images as well as notable collections of civil rights activists, the Buffalo soldiers and more are available online through the Black Archives digital gallery. blackarchives.org
Best known for his portraits of jazz performers, fellow artists and other creative individuals, Frederick James Brown created Kemper Museum's monumental work The History of Art (1994/2000), a series of 110 paintings that line the walls of Café Sebastienne. The exhibition features paintings from the Kemper Museum's permanent collection, a significant holder of the artist's works. kemperart.org
The Library offers numerous resources to learn about black history, including several online databases that include African American History Online; Black Thought and Culture; Slavery and Anti-Slavery and Slavery, Abolition & Social Justice, 1490-2007. mymcpl.org/blackhistory
More than 100 years old, the Mutual Musicians Foundation can be found 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. thefoundationjamson.org
Online – 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. The exhibit was created in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute and explores efforts to redefine citizenship, while improving social, political and economic conditions.
Ongoing | The permanent museum 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. African American women are also highlighted, as many were employed in several war industries, including munitions production. theworldwar.org
A frequent stop for visiting dignitaries and celebrities, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League—the country’s first successful organized black baseball league. Enjoy special programming, new exhibits and more starting February through November. 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. wycokck.org
Ongoing – Goodnight Irene | View this Charles White painting that once belonged to legendary performer and activist Harry Belafonte, which has been acquired for the permanent American collection. This acquisition highlights The Nelson’s seminal works of African American art.
Saint Adrian | Known for painting President Barack Obama's portraint, Kehinde Wiley's Saint Adrian is an oil on canvas work based on the 16th century artist Hans Holbein the Younger's depiction of Saint Adrian.
Permanent | 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. nelson-atkins.org