February is Black History Month, and there are so 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 | Wednesday – Sunday, 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 — we’ve been many times over the years, most recently on MLK Day. 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 day-of beginning at 8:15am.
Museum & Memorial Tour
Where: African American Civil War Museum | Shaw, DC
When: Ongoing | Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Take a tour of another museum dedicated to the contributions of more than 200,000 members of the United States Colored Troops. The African American Civil War Museum tells the stories of the historic roles these brave men played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. A collection of artifacts and documents, plus primary sources and technology create a meaningful learning experience for visitors about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. Be sure to stop by the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, too.
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, Covid-safe way to spend time outdoors. On February 19, 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).
Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Ongoing | Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
This exhibit about Rosa Parks goes well beyond her famous stance of not giving up her seat on the bus. Learn about Parks’ early life and family as well as her activism and achievements through a variety of displays, including photographs, old documents, newspaper clippings, and rarely seen materials. Find it in the gallery just beyond the Thomas Jefferson Library on the second floor.
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 of all ages. Pick up craft and STEM kits, coloring pages, and maps to help you explore Black history in DC. Join virtual story times. Catch a flick in the Black Love Film Series (recommend for adults, but teens could likely join, too). 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 the MLK 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, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy. On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.
Visit the Grounds of Frederick Douglass’ Estate
Where: Frederick Douglass Historic Site | Anascostia, DC
Visit the Frederick Douglass Historic Site in Anacostia. While the Visitor Center and Cedar Hill remain closed, the grounds are open on Fridays and Saturdays for the public to explore. Since no tours are currently being offered, get background on Douglass’ life and the estate before you visit to discuss with kids while you’re there.
Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DC area
The Wander Women Project, which maps the HerStories of worldwide wonder women, has a round-up of places honoring pioneer black women in the DC area area (and slightly further). This includes museums, memorials, call boxes, and online exhibits — both indoor and outdoor sites, so there are plenty to visit without Covid worries.
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 a Black History Driving Tour. Manumission Tour Company also 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.
African Americans at Walney Walking Tour
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park | Chantilly, VA
When: February 5, 11am – 12pm
The Fairfax County Park Authority regularly offers programs for families, and during February, there are a few that focus on Black History. During this one, hear the names and stories of many African American families who lived and worked at Walney. Learn about slave tenancy and hear stories of resistance and survival.
Black History in the Kid’s Room
Where: Maryland Science Center | Baltimore, MD
When: Throughout February
Admission: $19.95/age 3-12, $25.95/adult
All through February, the Maryland Science Center is celebrating Black History Month with activities to celebrate the achievements of black scientists in their Kid’s Room. This area of the children’s museum is dedicated to young children and learning through play. Check the Kid’s Room schedule on the door during your visit to see what activities are planned for the day. Read more about the Maryland Science Center in this recent post by KFDC writer Emily Moise and this one from when my kids were little.
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.
Show What You Know: African American Inventors
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When: February 5
Head to the children’s museum in Baltimore for all kinds of kid play, including this fun game being offered during February: Test your knowledge in this museum floor game show. Match and learn about famous inventions from African American men and women throughout history. Play with others for the chance to win multiple prizes! Read more about Port Discovery in this recent post.
Young Portrait Explorers
Where: National Portrait Gallery Online
When: February 9, 16, & 23, 11-11:30am
Join the National Portrait Gallery virtually for this program geared toward toddler and preschoolers up to age 5. Learn about African Americans who have made significant contributions to society as you take a close look at their portraits — Michelle Obama on February 9, Barack Obama on February 16, and George Washington Carver on February 23, Movement and art-making are part of the sessions, too! Register in advance for each session.
Black History Month Sneaker Exhibition
Where: Sole Wash | Capitol Hill, DC
When: February 19-20, 5-8pm
Sole Wash “Sneaker Laundry” is hosting its Annual Sneaker Exhibit highligting the rise of sneakers within black films, sports, hip-hop music, fashion, and more. Make an evening of it if you go — the sneaker cleaning and restoration business is located on Barracks Row near a bevy of family-friendly restaurants.
*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!