In February of 1976, Black History Month became officially recognized in the United States. The monthly theme was created, “to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”1
Since then, the country has continued to celebrate the rich heritage of African-Americans’, their stories, and pivotal moments on the road to equality. Every year, Black History Month is given a specific theme. The 2020 theme, “African-Americans and the Vote,” honors the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment that granted women’s right to vote and the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment that gave black men the right to vote.
Whether you’re looking to get involved with African-American heritage organizations, or further educate yourself on African-American history and culture, here are five NYC organizations to get you started.
Celebrate Black History Month in NYC
Alvin Ailey American
Dance Theater On March 30 of 1958, Alvin Ailey and a group of young, black modern dancers performed as the first official members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.2 Since then, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to celebrate African-American culture through the performing arts, and since its founding, it has performed over 235 different works.
To join Alvin Ailey’s celebration of African-American culture, New Yorkers can purchase tickets to their performances or a membership that helps them fund scholarships for Alvin Ailey students and free tickets to local, underprivileged youth. If being a spectator isn’t your thing, the Ailey Extension offers public beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level classes for styles that embrace its African-American roots, such as Kukuwa African Dance Workout and Open West African Dance.
Louis Armstrong House Museum
Celebrating the cultural, historical, and humanitarian legacy of a world-renowned Jazz musician, The Louis Armstrong House Museum proudly presents public programs such as exhibits, concerts, lectures, and film screenings that educate and inspire people with the stories of Armstrong’s works. The Louis Armstrong House Museum also gives back to the arts community in the form of a fellowship program specifically for students at historically black colleges or with studies focusing on black history, art, library studies, music, and the humanities.
To this day, Louis’s music continues to influence the world of music. New Yorkers can celebrate his contributions at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and participate in upcoming events or expand their knowledge of African-American history and by volunteering at the museum.
Bronxnet offers media education classes for Bronx residents and provides coverage of the local community, political, and social issues on Bronx public access channels. Produced by the community, for the community the organization helps amplify African-American voices in the borough.
From coverage of local fine artists, to politicians, to panels on diversity and representation, Bronxnet covers a diverse range of historical and contemporary issues that the community is currently facing as well as African-American achievements.
Started by Ben Bass in 1927, Strand Books is the literary hub of NYC. Even 90+ years later, the Bass family continues to own and operate the 18-mile long literary legacy and provide a place where books are loved and book lovers could come together. Today, Strand Books proudly carries over 2.5 million used, new, and rare books, covering topics as far-ranging as history to philosophy to local guides.
At Strand Books, expand your knowledge of African-American history and culture or read the literature by black authors alongside other book enthusiasts.
In February, the Strand is hosting several African-American authors, including:
- Margaret Kimberley and Dr. Crystal Fleming
- Mitchell Jackson and Imani Perry
- Rachel Cargle, Mahogany Browne, Morgan Jenkins, and Jamia Wilson
Harlem One Stop
There’s more to Harlem than meets the eye and that’s why Harlem One Stop connects locals and tourists alike with the arts, civic groups, cultural institutions, businesses, and cultural opportunities that call the city home.
Visit Harlem One Stop’s event page to discover all the programs honoring Black History Month happening in the city. From musical experiences such as the 12th Annual Black History Month Celebration with the Harlem Chamber Players, to educational programs such as the New-York Historical Society’s Because History Matters series, the opportunities are as diverse as the city itself.
Whether it’s attending an educational program at a museum, signing up to volunteer, taking a dance class at a theater, or self-learning at a bookstore, New York City has many ways to further your understanding of African-American history and culture. Join the celebration and get involved with organizations celebrating African-American contributions in NYC.
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