This Saturday, April 30, the National Gallery of Art welcomes you to join the Afro-Atlantic Histories Festival, a special day-long event highlighting the arts and culture of the African Diaspora.
This John Wilmerding Community Celebration will be offered in conjunction with the new Afro-Atlantic Histories exhibition, an enlightening and in-depth look at the historical experiences and cultural formations of Black and African people since the 17th century. If you haven’t yet experienced it, this weekend is a perfect time to go, when there will be activities for all ages to enjoy along with the collection of art!
Highlights of the festival include:
Jamaican cooking demonstrations and free samples from Executive Chef Christopher Curtis (12pm, 1pm, and 2pm — registration required)
The Festival will take place in various locations of the museum’s West Building. Catch musical performances at the National Mall entrance and the West Garden Court. Food Demos will be held in the Cascade Café, and you can find creator pop-ups and other festivities in the East Garden Court. View more details and the full schedule of the day’s activities here.
[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” She has shared many lesser-known stories and aspects of the DC area with us, including the first part to this series, which you can view here.]
This second installment featuring influential and fierce women highlights numerous women who have changed the course of our country’s history. While most of these women have positively impacted on our nation, some have altered our country in irrevocably devastating ways.
[Note: This is a guest post contributed by JoAnn Hill, a DC area educator and author of the book “Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.” She has shared many lesser-known stories and aspects of the DC area with us, which you can view here.]
Women’s History Month reminds us all to pay tribute to the countless trailblazing women who have paved the way for so many, as well as encourage us to continue to pave the way for more women to lead, inspire, and create. Here are five fascinating stories about some of the fierce and influential women who have helped shape Washington, DC, and our nation as well as information about local sites associated with them. (And because it’s impossible to limit the number of bold women who have impacted our world and our beloved capital city, this is part one of two blog posts dedicated to some the powerful women who have had significant roles in DC and our country’s history.)
Portrait Monument at the US Capitol: “We’re Waiting for You, Madam President”
Upon entering the imposing U.S. Capitol Rotunda, visitors are immediately surrounded by opulence, history, and an abundance of testosterone. Most statues and busts in the Rotunda are primarily of presidents, including Dwight David Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, and Ronald Reagan. One of the few exceptions is the prominent Portrait Monument, which proudly pays tribute to women’s suffrage, honoring trailblazers Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. These three remarkable women were the leading forces behind the women’s movement and led the crusade for women’s right to vote. While the monument to these pioneering women is impressive, perhaps its most intriguing aspect is the fact that it seems to have been intentionally left unfinished.
Towering behind the three busts is an indistinct and eye-catching uncarved block of marble — an enigma that has led to a great amount of speculation over the years. According to urban myth and many Capitol tour guides, the uncarved lump is reserved for the first female president. In recent years, many visitors have wondered if Hillary Clinton would one day hold the spot. It’s been theorized that the monument’s sculptor, Adelaide Johnson, purposely left the statue unfinished to symbolize that women still had a very long road to acquiring equal rights and left the block uncarved to represent all other women’s rights leaders — past, present, and future.
A year after white women’s suffrage was finally achieved, the statue was moved underground. It was hidden in a broom closet in the basement and remained there for 75 years.
Go and Explore: Currently the Capitol Visitor Center is closed. Once it reopens, visitors are welcome to enter the building through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol.
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Seances at the Soldiers’ Home: “First Lady Seances at the Soldiers’ Home”
Today President Lincoln’s Cottage, a national monument situated on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, is the esteemed setting of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. In the 1800s, however, the Soldiers’ Home served as a meeting place for spirit circles, known as seances, where bereaved individuals would gather to communicate with deceased loved ones. Perhaps the most recognized attendees were Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband, President Abraham Lincoln.
After the death of their son Willie in 1862, a grieving Mary Lincoln began to attend these seances, where a medium would help those gathered communicate with lost loved ones. Spirits communicated in various ways, including scratching, rapping, playing instruments, pulling on clothing or hair, and pinching participants. While there were many skeptics, spiritualism appealed to many, regardless of class, particularly following the heavy death toll during the Civil War.
Despite increased popularity of seances, Mrs. Lincoln’s involvement attracted gossip and condemnation, not just of her, but of Abraham Lincoln, who periodically joined her. Historians maintain Lincoln frequented seances out of curiosity or support for his wife, not out of credence. President Lincoln was dubious of mediums, particularly of one named Lord Colchester, a man who claimed to be the illegitimate son of an English duke. Lincoln summoned Dr. Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian, to investigate the questionable medium.
Espionage at the Old Capitol Prison: “US Capitol Turns Supreme”
Since its inception in 1789, the U.S. Supreme Court has had a resounding impact on countless aspects of our lives. From public school integration to voting rights, the highest court in the land has been an integral part of the very fabric of our nation. The site of the Supreme Court, however, was not always a place of distinction and justice. In fact, it has quite a long and sordid history.
After the British torched the U.S. Capitol during the War of 1812, Congress built a brick building to serve as a temporary capitol. Once Congress was able to move into its permanent dwelling, the temporary building, now regarded as the Old Capitol, was soon transformed into a boardinghouse. The outbreak of the Civil War, however, left it abandoned and dilapidated. The government removed the fence surrounding the building, replaced the wooden slits above the windows with iron bars, and converted it into a prison.
Many prestigious individuals served prison time here, including Confederate generals, Northern political prisoners, and spies. Many of the spies were women, often playing integral roles in the Confederate victories.
Go and Explore: The U.S. Supreme Court is located at 1 First Street NE. It is currently closed to the public, but welcomes visitors Monday – Friday from 9am – 4:30pm when it is open.
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Congressional Cemetery, Dolley Madison and the Public Vault:“Keep It in the Vault”
Over 3,000 individuals have been interred in the Congressional Cemetery’s Public Vault, including three presidents, one vice president, and two first ladies. Many stay here for only one to two days since it was never intended to be used for long-term stays. So, why was Dolley Madison interred in the Public Vault for two years, making her the longest known internment of the vault?
Dolley Madison was a trailblazer. She helped define the role of First Lady, was often credited with helping advance James Madison’s career, and perhaps most notably, saved a historic portrait of George Washington from being burned by British troops during the War of 1812. While the Madisons were among the elite, they weren’t immune to falling on hard times. As James Madison’s health began to deteriorate, he prepared his presidential papers to help secure financial security for Dolley after his death. Their son Payne’s recklessness, however, destroyed their finances. Payne’s alcoholism, frivolous inheritance spending, and struggles with employment forced Dolley to sell the family’s properties to pay his debts. After selling part of her late husband’s papers, she was finally able to rise out of the family’s deep financial woes and set the remaining money aside in a trust and out of Payne’s reach. Ultimately, her efforts weren’t enough to shield her against further financial despair.
Go and Explore: Congressional Cemetery is located at 1801 E Street SE. Congressional Cemetery is open daily from dawn to dusk.
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Clover Adams Memorial: “They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky: The Adams Memorial”
Inside DC’s Rock Creek Cemetery sits a creepy, and (according to some) haunted statue of Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams. Hooper Adams was married to Henry Adams, a descendent of John Quincy Adams and John Adams. A prime example of art imitating life, the eerie sculpture is as dismal as the woman it portrays.
Clover Adams was a talented individual praised for her incredible photography, writing, and volunteer work in the Civil War. Sadly, she was often described as unwell, and in 1885, at 42 years old, she committed suicide by swallowing potassium cyanide, a chemical she often used in her photography. Speculation surrounded the motive of her suicide; some thought it was the result of her father’s recent death, while others felt it was because her husband was interested in another woman. Henry mourned the loss of his wife, and in many ways the way he grieved was almost as perplexing as his wife’s death. He destroyed nearly all her photographs and letters, and it was said that he never spoke her name again. Moreover, Henry never even mentioned her in his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams.
The next year, however, after traveling to Japan, Henry commissioned artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens to sculpt a memorial to his late wife.
Go and Explore: The Adams Memorial is in Section E of Rock Creek Cemetery in Northwest DC.
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JoAnn Hill, author of Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, has affectionately called Washington, DC, home for over 20 years. She has written extensively about DC living, its food, and her world travels on her blog dcglobejotters.org and other mediums and publications. Through her writing and research, she shares hidden histories, off-the-beaten-path locales, and lesser-known stories that inspire the insatiably curious explorer. Her next book, DC Scavenger, will be released later this year. She lives in DC with her husband Thalamus and dog Jackson and is the co-founder of Capitol Teachers, a tutoring company servicing the greater DC area.
We all know about the many incredible museums located along the stretch of National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument. In fact, just the collection of Smithsonians and National Gallery of Art could easily provide an ongoing museum fix. But if you don’t get off that well trodden path every now and then, you could miss out on some other amazing exhibits and experiences that aren’t as well known. And while some of them require an entrance fee unlike those go-to places, they shouldn’t be counted out because of it (and you can keep them in mind for special occasions). Here is a round-up of some museums in DC that may not be in your regular museum rotation — but should be. (And I didn’t forget National Portrait Gallery/American Art and National Building Museum, just know know they are already well loved.) Happy Museum-ing!
National Museum of the U.S. Navy
Where: Entrance at 11th & O Streets SE | Navy Yard, DC
When: Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm & Saturday, 10am – 4pm
One of the coolest museums in DC is one that many people don’t even know exists. Located on the Navy base in Southeast DC, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy is a trove of fascinating artifacts, stories, and art that illustrate the history and impact of the Navy over hundreds of years. See everything from large and small parts of ships to actual weapons used in war to whole submarines to photographs to war memorabilia. Models of all kinds of naval vessels are so intricate, you keep finding new details to examine. There’s a great exhibit about baseball and its relationship with the Navy. A few interactive elements like periscopes to peer into for river views outside and control boards with buttons to push and levers to pull add some extra engagement, especially for kids. Access to the base and museum requires visitor passes, which can be obtained at the Visitor Center. Be sure to read this post with more information about visiting. KFDC Tip: Plan on a meal The Yards, where there are many dining options a short walk away.
Interact with language at Planet Word
Where: 925 13th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free with passes
The museum all about language has three levels of exhibits, most of them interactive, all of them engaging, interesting, and fun. There are elements that will delight all ages, though tweens and older will get the most out of it, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension. Play word games, explore languages across the globe, experience the most magical library ever, paint with words, recite a speech, joke around, sing karaoke, and so much more. While admission is free, you generally need to reserve tickets in advance. KFDC Tip: A limited number of day-of, walk-up passes are available on the half-hour.
National Postal Museum Where: 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE |Union Station Area, DC When: Friday – Tuesday, 10am – 5:30pm Admission: Free
As I said years ago, I like to think of the National Postal Museum as a locals’ secret, overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its counterparts on the Mall. I’ve also always recommended the museum as a particularly great one to visit with young children. It isn’t huge, so it’s not overwhelming for little ones. Plus, there are numerous interactives and big installations — all of it showcasing the history of the mail and U.S. Postal System — that appeal to both children and adults. KFDC Tip: The museum is conveniently located next to Union Station, so you can also grab lunch and get there easily via Metro (Red Line).
A glimpse of the Dream Machine, a climbing, sliding, twisty structure at the Children’s Museum
National Children’s Museum
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $15.95/age 1+
The National Children’s Museum, located within the Ronald Reagan Building, features an array of STEAM-inspired exhibits that offer kids all kinds of cool ways to engage, learn, and exercise creativity. Just about all of the exhibits are interactive with lessons in science, math, and even social justice at their cores presented in fun, kid-relatable ways. And there is often at least one big traveling exhibit, like the current Thomas & Friends there through May 15. The museum is geared toward children up to age 12, and there are areas especially for littles.
The S Museum mission begins at a briefing station to assume an undercover identity
International Spy Museum
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $26.95/age 13+, $16.95/7-12, free/6 & under A visit to the International Spy Museum takes you on an “undercover mission” to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Start by assuming a secret identity and get a briefing on being a secret agent before touring the exhibits and testing their spy skills. This is a museum that appeals to both kids and adults with state-of-the-art multimedia installations and many interactives. Discover tricks of the trade, view gadgets used to keep secrets and disguises to hide identities, and learn about some of the most famous spies and their missions. The museum is recommended for ages 9 and up, but younger kids could probably enjoy it, too, with the help of parents. KFDC Tip: Don’t miss the gift shop! With all kinds of spy games, gadgets, and other related products, it’s like a bonus area to explore at the museum.
A close look at wildlife projection at a past Nat Geo exhibit
National Geographic Museum
Where: 1145 17th St. NW | Downtown DC
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $15/adult, $10/ages 5-12, $12/military & senior, free/under 5
Recently reopened after closing for nearly two years due to Covid, the National Geographic Museum is one to keep on your radar. Located within the organization’s headquarters downtown, the museum is a reflection of Nat Geo’s work that explores and examines aspects of the world that are both fascinating and significant, sharing discoveries and telling stories in a variety of compelling ways. Stunning photography, a signature of Nat Geo, is always on display. And special exhibitions often are full-on experiences that utilize multimedia and interactive installations to educate, enrich, amuse, and wow guests. (Get a glimpse of some, from the incredible Titanicexhibition to Real Pirates to Spinosaurus to Birds of Paradise and the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization to Monster Fish to Photo Arc and CROCS to Earth Explorers — yes, we’ve been to a lot of them over them years!)
See the box where Lincoln sat on his final fateful night on a tour of Ford’s Theater
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3
Ford’s Theater isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through a museum featuring exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. Along with the museum, a visit to the National Historic Site includes theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and a self-guided tour of Petersen House across the street. It’s best for about ages 8 and up. (Younger children certainly could go, but older kids probably would understand and get more out of the experience.) Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.
Immerse in beautiful digital exhibits at ARTECHOUSE
ARTECHOUSE Where: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW | Southwest DC
Admission: $24/adult, $17/age 4-15, free/under 4
ARTECHOUSE has made its mark on the DC art scene with exhibitions that fuse art and technology, and encourage visitors to not just view it, but experience it. The digital works always include striking floor-to-ceiling projections on walls (and sometimes the floors, too) in the spacious main gallery with more installations in side rooms. It’s beautiful and immersive, often inviting visitors to interact with and manipulate the art through movement detected by sensors. Many of the exhibits celebrate the seasons with themes that reflect the time of year in some way or are inspired by current times, which adds some extra interest. Get a glimpse of the current Transient: Impermanent Paintings and some past exhibits here, here, here, here, and here. KFDC Tip: Look for a discount on admission here.
A close look at one of Renoir’s most famous paintings at the Phillips
Where: 1600 21st Street NW | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Admission: Pay what you wish
Its smaller size and beyond-the-Mall location make the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle a great place for an art experience with kids, the space being easy-to-navigate with generally less crowds. Plus, the permanent collection contains contemporary and modern pieces that appeal to young museum-goers as well as some famous works to help introduce kids to the masters. There’s a Family Gallery, where specially-selected artworks are displayed at children’s eye-level with kid-tested conversation prompts right on the walls. You can also pick up packets at the front desk that offer tips for exploring the museum with kids. Read more about the Phillips in this KFDC post and this one.
You’ll soon be able to experience a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room again!
Where: Independence Ave. & 7th St. SW | National Mall, DC
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Okay, so this one isn’t off the beaten path in a literal sense given that it’s right on the National Mall. But, figuratively, it is a diversion from most parents’ go-to Smithsonians. There was a time that I even thought the collections and exhibits at the Hirshhorn were over my kids’ heads, but that changed many years ago with Suprasensorial. In fact, many of their favorite, most memorable exhibit experiences have been at the Hirshhorn. There was Pulseinspired by heartbeats, Ragnar Kjatansson‘s wonderfully evocative works, and of course Yayoi Kusama’s oh-so-popular Infinity Mirrors. The museum also keeps little art-goers in mind, featuring Art Carts on select dates that provide materials for kiddos to get creative. (And, hopefully, they’ll be bringing back the story time sessions that were offered pre-Covid.) KFDC Tip: Don’t miss the sculpture garden outside!
The Kreeger’s outdoor area is especially cool for kids
Where: Foxhall/Palisades, DC
When: Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Suggested donation $10/adult
The small art museum in DC’s Foxhall-Palisades neighborhood is perfect for an art fix with kids that’s gratifying without being overwhelming. Inside, you can view works from the 19th and 20th centuries from celebrated artists that include Monet, Picasso, Miro, and Calder. But the five-acre outdoor area is what will really excite kids with all kinds of large-scale installations that are beautiful, interesting, even quirky and fun. There is a fountain/pool with seating and sculptures around it, a small patch of woods with art and a trail that loops around, and a grassy expanse with works that you’ll all enjoy. There’s even a piece “climbing” on the side of building, another snaking up a tree, and one that plays solar powered music. Timed-entry tickets need to be reserved in advance.
KFDC Tip: Plan on lunch or an ice cream treat at Jetties before or after — it’s located right down Foxhall Road and they have delicious sandwiches, salads, and scoops!
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
Folger Shakespeare Library
Where: 201 East Capitol Street SE | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Temporarily closed for renovations
You don’t have to be a huge Shakespeare enthusiast to enjoy the Folger Shakespeare Library, but if you are a fan of The Bard, you will love it. along with a theater that presents Shakespearean plays and other productions, the attraction on Capitol Hill contains the world’s largest collection of materials relating to the poet and playwright. While a lot of it probably appeals mostly to adults, there are displays and activities especially for kids, like a book rack for young readers, a Prop Drop for dress up, fun photo ops and art prompts, and occasionally special exhibits. Pre-Covid there were regular workshops for families, so fingers crossed they will be back when the Folger reopens (it’s currently closed for renovations, but I’m including here for when visitors are welcome again). KFDC Tip: Make it a bigger outing and pair with a visit to the Library of Congress right on the next block or a visit to Eastern Market just a few blocks away on 7th Street SE.
Explore the eclectic collection at the Mansion on O
Mansion on O Street
Where: 2020 O St. NW | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Tours start at $26.50
The Dupont Circle destination isn’t your typical museum. In fact, I’m not sure it even really is a museum, but they call themselves one, so I’m including it here. The Mansion on O Street easily one of the neatest places in DC — a “museum,” inn, event space, and secondhand shop all in one. Four stories high and five row houses wide, it contains 100 rooms, many of them open for visitors to explore. You can locate secret doors, see outrageously fabulous themed rooms, and browse a trove of secondhand treasures The mansion is filled literally floor to ceiling with the most eclectic collection of, well, just about everything collectible. There are books, autographed instruments, kitchen items, paintings, all kinds of knick knacks, and so much more. The kicker: Nearly all of it is for sale! It’s one of DC’s most stunning spaces (imo) and a place that delights both kids and adults.
What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path museum in DC? Let us know in the comments!
A recent family visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture
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 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!