Celebrate at the National Gallery of Art with works by Black artists + more museum programs
February is Black History Month, and there are many great events and activities throughout the DC area to celebrate it. Museum programs (including an entire museum), special events, tours and exhibits, and more will be enlightening and fun for all ages. Here’s where many are happening over the next few weeks.
African American History & Culture
Where: NMAAHC | National Mall, DC
When: Ongoing | Mon, 12- 5:30pm, Tues-Sat 10am – 5:30pm
The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America, covering everything from early slave trading to modern day achievements by Black people. If you’ve never been, this month is a great, meaningful time to go. And if you have been, there is so much to be gleaned, teach to kids, contemplate, and celebrate, you can never visit too much . It’s a huge museum with a lot of exhibits to navigate, some of them very heavy and somber, so be sure to read the KFDC Guide to visiting the museum with kids before you go. Free, timed-entry passes are required, and they are available online here. You can reserve in advance or try for same-day tickets — a limited number are released online beginning at 8:15am.
American Folklife Center Open House
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: February 2, 5-7pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry ticket
To kick off Black History Month, the American Folklife Center is hosting an open house featuring items related to African-American history and heritage in the U.S. Visitors are welcome to stop by and view the collections, and chat with Folklife Center staff. Reserve tickets here. And read more about visiting the Library of Congress in this KFDC post.
Kids’ Films: Celebrating Black Stories
Where: National Gallery of Art | National Mall, DC
When: February 4, 10:30am – 12pm
Recommended for ages 10 and up, the National Gallery of Art showcases short films for kids that highlight Black stories. The films share the joy, determination, resilience, and complexity of being Black and young, and explore a range of genres and styles in a program that spans the globe.
Culture Queen Kids Hour: Magnificent Monuments
Where: Anacostia Community Museum | Anacostia, DC
When: February 4, 12-1
In this session of the monthly Culture Queen Kids hour, participants will honor African Americans who inspire them by creating their own monuments. Grammy-nominated children’s entertainer, Culture Queen, holds court once a month at ACM for live performances, interactive community building, stories, crafts, movement and more. Registration recommended.
Explore Works by Black Artists
Where: National Gallery of Art | National Mall, DC
When: Ongoing, Daily, 10am – 5pm
Explore works from Black artists across centuries, mediums and geographies, ranging from 19th century still life painter Robert Seldon Duncanson to modern and contemporary pieces by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Alma Thomas, Sam Gilliam, Kara Walker, and more. The current exhibit, Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South, is great to see now. And check the museum calendar for special programs that celebrate Black artists.
How Old is a Hero?
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: February 7-10
This Discovery Theater original play infused with archival music of the Civil Rights era celebrates three young people who helped change the nation by their heroic actions. Meet Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine, the first black student to graduate from an integrated high school; Claudette Colvin, who months before Rosa Parks, also refused to give up her seat on a bus; and Ruby Bridges, who was only six in 1960 when she stepped into first grade—and into history—as the first student to desegregate an all-white school in New Orleans. Their inspiring stories demonstrate that hope begins with the courage of young people. Recommended for ages 6-12.
Frederick Douglass Birthday Celebration
Where: Capital Turnaround | Southeast DC
When: February 11, 2-4pm
Join the National Park Service for this annual event celebrating Frederick Douglass’s Birthday! The program will include music by the Jubilee Voices of the Washington Revels, performances by the student winners of the Douglass Oratorical Contest, and a light-hearted debate style program that asks the question: “What place did Frederick Douglass call home?” Douglass lived in three states and the District of Columbia during his lifetime, and while it is impossible to ask Douglass this question, our panelists will support their positions in the debate, and we will let the audience decide! Doors open at 12:30pm and include music by DC Strings, exhibitors, info about about Frederick Douglass’ interest in DC’s streetcars, and photo ops with Frederick Douglass. Capital Turnaround is located at 770 M Street SE.
Young Portrait Explorers: Toni Morrison
Where: National Portrait Gallery Online
When: February 13, 10:30-11:30am
The National Portrait Gallery’s program that highlights African Americans who have made significant contributions has an in-person event this month. Kids can learn about author Toni Morrison as they take a close look at her portrait and enjoy movement and art-making, too. This is geared toward toddler and preschoolers up to age 6. See more about the museum here.
Hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: Daily, sunrise to sunset
A great outing with kids during Black History Month (or anytime), this hike offers insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. The walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active way to spend time outdoors. On February 18, Woodlawn Manor will be hosting a special Black History Month Family Day, when you ca stop in the Visitors Center to pick up take-home activities for kids as well as a trail map (though you can also print that out at home if you go a different day).
Meetinghouse Open House
Where: Frying Pan Baptist Meetinghouse | Herndon, VA
When: Saturdays in February, 12-2pm
In honor of Black History Month, the Frying Pan Baptist Meetinghouse will be open each Saturday of February. Established in the 18th century, the original congregation of the meetinghouse included enslaved, free Black, and slaveholding members. Join the Fairfax Park Authority to explore a different facet of Black history in Floris and Herndon each weekend. Pop in for a few minutes or stay the whole two hours.
Where: Public Libraries throughout DC
When: Throughout February
The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of offerings for kids (and adults) of all ages. Participate in a Black history themed scavenger hunt. Watch a related film. Go on a StoryWalk. Play black History Jeopardy…. and more! Visit the website to see what activities are being offered at each library.
Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement in the summer of 2020 as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. It’s since been repainted and become permanent. The pedestrian area is now a site of historic significance in DC, a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events, and a location providing good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.
Where: Several locations in DC
Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to theMLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quotes engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, theAfrican American Civil War Memorialhonors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy. On Capitol Hill, theMary McLeod Bethune Memorialin Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.
Black History in Alexandria
Where: Throughout Alexandria, VA
Admission: Varies by activity
There are a few major projects and programs that highlight Black history experiences throughout Alexandria. Walk along the Duke Street Black History Trail. Or hop in the car for aBlack History Driving Tour. Manumission Tour Companyalso offers an Underground Railroad-themed tour.
Black History with PG Parks
Where: Sites around PG County, MD & Online
When: Through February
Admission: Varies by location
Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned both in person at locations throughout Prince George’s County and online.
Celebrate with Dance
Where: Maryland Youth Ballet In Person & Online
When: Throughout February
Admission: Varies by event
To celebrate Black History Month, Maryland Youth Ballet is presenting virtual and in-person masterclasses, plus performances and talks led by black dance artists. It will bring together numerous dancers, choreographers, and teaching artists from throughout the metropolitan DC region as well as nationally to celebrate and recognize the culture and contributions of Black people in dance. Events will take place at various locations around the DC area and online — see the website for specifics.
The Slave Memorial
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under
Make a point to see this on a visit to George Washington’s estate. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage.
Celestial Navigation and the Underground Railroad
Where: Josiah Henson Museum and Park | North Bethesda, MD
When: February 25
This educational program explores the crucial role of the night sky in guiding and empowering freedom seekers on their journeys north along the Underground Railroad. Historian Dr. Sylvea Hollis, astronomer Dr. Lou Strolger, and PhD candidate Sophie Hess will provide more insight as you observe the stars. The free, family-friendly program will take place at the Josiah Henson Museum and Park visitor center and does not include museum admission. Recommended for ages 6+.
*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here? Feel free to share in the comments!