Throughout February, the Office of Historic Alexandria is offering a variety of Black History Month events. In addition to Alexandria Black History Museum programs and exhibitions, both Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and Fort Ward Museum are hosting lectures that explore local African American heritage.
Black History Month Children’s Program: Play Date with Pride
Saturday, February 5 ~ Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
Culture Kingdom Kids, a mobile cultural arts program that produces children’s events with a cultural twist, presents “Play Date with Pride.” Celebrate Black History Month at this interactive workshop for children ages 5 to 12. Enjoy hands-on creative arts such as storytelling, crafts, and music and dance activities. Parents must accompany children. Reservations recommended. $5 per child. 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. 703.746.4356.
“The Lion Mountains: A Journey Through Sierra Leone’s History” Film Screening
Saturday, February 12 ~ Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
This documentary follows a journey to Sierra Leone in West Africa through the eyes of a young British filmmaker. After a long desire to visit the continent of Africa and learn more about his own history, Louis Buckley decided to visit the country of Sierra Leone, the center of British West Africa in the days of British imperialism. The film looks at pre-colonial Sierra Leone, questioning what happened in the days of the British Empire and how the country changed. It also examines the beginning of European and African trade, the difference between African and European slavery, and some of the effects of Western imperialism and colonial rule. (54 min.) SankofaSpirit created its film series to counter the myths and negative images of people of African descent so often promoted by Hollywood. Movies with a Mission are free monthly films about Africa and the African Diaspora that seek to inform and inspire dialogue. Free! 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 703.746.4356.
“Paul Robeson” Play and Dinner
Sunday, February 13 ~ Carlyle Club, 411 John Carlyle Street
In honor of Black History Month, experience the life of the dynamic activist, acclaimed actor and brilliant scholar Paul Robeson in a special performance of “Paul Robeson,” a play by Philip Hayes Dean. This benefit for the Alexandria Black History Museum stars actor Hugh Staples, accompanied by Michael Hill and directed by Cody Jones. Hugh Staples brings to life the struggles and career of one of America’s most brilliant but misunderstood heroes, Paul Robeson. This 90-minute performance will be followed by a sumptuous dinner and a discussion with the lead actor. Performance begins at 5 p.m. Advance tickets are required, with pricing options from $20 to $50, depending on dinner choices. Snow date is Tuesday, February 15. 703.746.4356.
“Those Who Labor For Me: A Closer Look at Some of George Washington's Enslaved Workers” Lecture
Wednesday, February 16 ~ Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street
In presenting “Those Who Labor For Me: A Closer Look at Some of George Washington's Enslaved Workers,” Professor Peter Henriques, Professor of History Emeritus from George Mason University and a frequent speaker at Gadsby's Tavern Museum, will take a somewhat different approach to the topic of George Washington and slavery. The focus will be primarily on a handful of enslaved workers, Charlotte, Sambo Anderson and Ona Judge plus a few others, and only tangentially on Washington. With the goal of introducing these fascinating but largely forgotten people to a wider audience, Professor Henriques illustrates not only the horrors of slavery, but also reveals a more complicated story than generally known. Doors open at 7 p.m. and lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $12 per lecture and $10 for Society members and volunteers. Reservations recommended. 703.746.4242.
Saturday, February 19 ~ Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
Discover your own family history with expert techniques for tracing African-American ancestors at “In Search of Parker and Gray: Two African American Education Icons.” Genealogist Char McCargo Bah will focus on John F. Parker and Sarah A. Gray, early African American educators in Alexandria for whom Parker-Gray School was named during segregation. Learn how Char had to focus on collateral lines, distinguish among people with the same name and overcome other challenges – and how her tips can help with your family research. This event is part of Char’s ongoing genealogy series, “Their Voices Can Be Heard.” Reservations recommended. $5. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 703.746.4356.
“Whirlwind Coming: African Americans in the District and Alexandria during the Civil War” Lecture
Saturday, February 26 ~ Fort Ward Museum, 4301 West Braddock Road
In recognition of Black History Month, historian Carroll R. Gibbs will present his lecture, “Whirlwind Coming: African Americans in the District and Alexandria during the Civil War.” Many former slaves migrated to the Washington area during the Civil War seeking refuge behind Union lines, and alongside free blacks, worked for the Union war effort in various capacities. In his presentation, Gibbs will discuss the Civil War-era experiences and contributions of African Americans living in the Federal capital and the nearby seaport town of Alexandria, which became a headquarters and transportation center for the Union army. His lecture will highlight the role of civilians as well as some of the U.S. Colored Troop regiments that were associated with the camps and forts comprising the Civil War Defenses of Washington. The lecture is scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Museum library. Cost for the program is $10 per person, and reservations are suggested due to limited space. 703.746.4848.
Annual Black History Month Lecture & Soul Food Tasting
Sunday, February 27 ~ Charles Houston Recreation Center, 901 Wythe Street
Join the Alexandria Black History Museum and members of the NAACP for the annual Black History Month lecture and soul food tasting. The featured guest speaker, Asa Gordon, Secretary-General, Sons and Daughters of the U.S .Colored Troops, will discuss the 2011 Black History Month Theme of “African Americans in the Civil War.” Following the lecture, guests will sample a variety of African-American traditional foods. This year, a collection will be taken to help NAACP students attend the ACT-SO program at their national conference. This year’s event is at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Free! 703.746.4356.
"Style and Identity: Black Alexandria in the 1970s, Portraits by Horace Day" Exhibition
Open through May 7 ~ Alexandria Black History Museum, 902 Wythe Street
This exhibition of 32 paintings by Horace Day features Alexandria street scenes and portraits of African American Alexandrians as well as individuals from other Virginia communities. Described as an American scene or regional painter, Day created this body of work at a time when “Black” was becoming “Beautiful,” but when media still promoted stereotypical, demeaning images of African Americans. Day’s portraits, however, reflect the dignity and beauty he saw in his subjects. Come and view the exhibition and see how concepts of race, beauty and class have changed. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Suggested admission is $2. 703.746.4356.