American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded a group known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and first promoted a National Black History Week in 1926, to be celebrated the second week of February. Dr. Woodson said, "Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history." Black History Week eventually evolved into Black History Month and the new observance was officially recognized in 1976 by our 38th President, Gerald Ford.
Locally, there are numerous ways to engage with African American culture in the DC Metro area during Black History month. Please be sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing when visiting any of the following sites.
Walk through the historic Shaw neighborhood, once home to prominent African Americans including jazz legend Duke Ellington, whose statue resides in front of the historic Howard Theatre. You can also walk the theater's Walk of Fame, which begins near the United Negro College Fund Headquarters and continues for two blocks, right up to the facade of the Howard. Learn moreOpens in New Window.
The National Mall has been the site of vital African American history, including the March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 and the first Million Man March in 1995. Learn moreOpens in New Window.
Situated on a four-acre, crescent-shaped site in West Potomac Park, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial features a 30-foot statue of Dr. King carved into what is known as the Stone of Hope, which stands past two other pieces of granite known as the Mountain of Despair (both are references to his "I Have A Dream” speech). Learn moreOpens in New Window.
Situated near Logan Circle, the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House is the home of the organizer and national political leader who founded the National Council of Negro Women. Her home is now a National Historic Site where interpreters share stories of her life and legacy every Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (schedule currently subject to change due to COVID-19). Across town in Capitol Hill, you can also visit a statue dedicated in her honor. Learn MoreOpens in New Window.
In June 2020, a portion of 16th Street, just north of Lafayette Square, was transformed into a city-commissioned mural emblazoned with the powerful civil rights message in yellow lettering. The site is an ideal space to reflect on not just DC's Black history, but the country's as a whole. Learn MoreOpens in New Window.
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