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Celebrating African American Contributions to the Arts: Black History Month in the District

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at American chapter.

Washington, D.C. is rich in African American history and culture, making it an apt location to celebrate Black History Month. 

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is African Americans and the arts, according to the Association for the Study of African Life and History (ASALH). Here’s a curated selection of must-visit venues and experiences that honor and celebrate the enduring legacy of African American creativity and innovation.

  1. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)

This Black History Month, the Smithsonian is showcasing the “art of resistance” with an 

exhibit spotlighting artists who have harnessed their talents to elevate their community, challenge authority, and ignite national inspiration.

Discover the NMAAHC’s Musical Crossroads exhibit, a captivating journey through the rich musical heritage of African Americans. Explore specialty tours, educational programs, and engaging events, including discussions with renowned figures like designer B Michael, and authors Ibram X. Kendi, the founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, and Keisha N. Blain on their groundbreaking book “Four Hundred Souls.”

The NMAAHC also continues to offer virtual experiences, highlighting topics from prison reform to poetry workshops.

  1. The Mansion on O & the O Street Museum

Pay tribute to the remarkable life of Rosa Parks, an iconic figure in the Civil Rights 

movement at the Mansion on O, which she frequented during her visits to the District. The Mansion on O is a world-famous event and lodging epicenter, including its large immersive museum, on O Street. Explore the Mansion’s dedicated tour, which includes a short film detailing Parks’ connection to the property. 

Additionally, immerse yourself in the museum’s diverse exhibits, from the American Roots collection to the Lungisa African Art Show. Rosa Parks tours are available every day of the week—reserve your spot here.

  1. “Awareness: Through an African American Lens” Exhibit at the Zenith Gallery 

This February through March 2, the Zenith Gallery presents a special exhibition honoring 

the achievements of Black artists. This showcase features a diverse array of 11 seasoned and emerging painters. 

The museum will also be featuring an Artist Talk each Saturday in February at 2 p.m. 

  1. “Ancestral Places: People of African Descent” at Tudor Place

Discover Washington’s rich Black History at Tudor Place, the historic home of six 

generations of Martha Washington’s family, which has been turned into a museum. This immersive exhibit, running from Feb. 6 to April 21, sheds light on the enslaved and free individuals who once lived and worked on the property. Through maps, artifacts, photos, and audio recordings, visitors will learn about their daily lives, struggles, and acts of resistance and activism.

The exhibit is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.; reserve tickets for the guided house tour here

  1. Montpelier House Museum

The Montpelier, located in Prince George’s County, MD, is offering free tours throughout 

February to celebrate Black History Month. Explore the historic late 18th-century house and the lives of those who lived there, open Thursday through Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each week, and delve into its rich heritage.

  1. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site 

Celebrate Black History Month at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site with 

special programming centered around this year’s national theme, “African Americans and the Arts.” Join rangers for an exclusive tour of the artwork adorning the first floor of Frederick Douglass’s home, Cedar Hill, as they delve into Douglass’s appreciation for human creativity and imagination. 

Tours will be offered every Saturday throughout February at 9:30 a.m. To reserve your spot, please email douglassNHS@nps.gov.

  1. “Living the Dream…Singing the Dream” At the Kennedy Center 

Witness the annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Kennedy Center on February 18th at 7 p.m., where the Washington Performing Arts and Choral Arts Society of Washington choirs unite for a powerful performance honoring Dr. King’s enduring legacy through music. Experience the uplifting blend of voices and community spirit that has captivated audiences for years. Buy tickets here.

  1. Annual Black History Month Family Day Festival

Bring your loved ones to this free celebration on Saturday, February 17th, from 10 

a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland. The festival features 20 county entrepreneurs vending African and African American goods, alongside delicious Southern and Caribbean cuisine prepared by local chefs. Enjoy performances by local elementary students, as well as engaging speakers, for a full day of cultural enrichment and fun!

  1. Go-Go Museum Honors 

Commemorate the fourth-anniversary of Go-Go’s recognition as “The Official Music of 

Washington, D.C.” at The Go-Go Honors from Feb. 18 at 8:00 p.m. to Feb. 19 at 12:00 a.m. 

 Among the esteemed honorees are Mayor Bowser, Big Tony from Trouble Funk, D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and Mr. William Julius “JuJu” House, alongside others. The festivities will feature a special performance by The Experience Band, promising an evening filled with celebration and appreciation for the vibrant go-go culture of the nation’s capital. Buy tickets in advance here

  1. A Hip-Hop 50th Anniversary Celebration

BlackRock Center for the Arts celebrates 50 years of Hip-Hop with musical artist WORDSMITH. Register for the show on Friday, Feb. 23, and add on a ticket for the after-party performance by DJ Oso Fresh.   

Maryjane is a junior at American University majoring in journalism and business. She is passionate about social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and women's rights. Maryjane is an editor for HCAU and lives in D.C.