For over 50 years, Americans have observed Black History Month, honoring the history, struggles and triumphs of Black Americans throughout U.S. history. By no means can recognition of so many substantial achievements and contributions be confined to just one month, but there’s no question that an abundance of Black History Month events in New York City and the surrounding area is cause to celebrate. Here are some recommendations of things to see and do this month.
All events were confirmed as of publication, but we recommend confirming in advance. New events will be added as they are confirmed.
“Strange Fruit: A Black History Collection”
Beginning Feb. 3, independent Lower East Side theater Metrograph will begin showing “Strange Fruit: A Black History Collection,” which comprises a group of eclectic and obscure movies that, as series programmer Brandon Harris put it, “normally don’t make the Black Exceptionalist highlight reel but should.” There’s the Elvis Mitchell-helmed documentary “Is That Black Enough for You?!?”; the campy 1941 Christian propaganda film “The Blood of Jesus”; the surreal 1930 devil-in-the-Jazz-Age movie, “Hellbound Train”; the 1951 adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” starring Wright; 1970s jazz classic “Passing Through”; and “Topsy and Eva,” a 1920s silent blackface film based on characters from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Get ticket info here. Dates throughout February, Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St, Chinatown
“Color Between the Lines”
On Feb. 4, Brooklyn’s Irondale Ensemble Project is putting on a free performance of its original musical “Color Between the Lines.” Made in collaboration with the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Weeksville Heritage Center, the musical-theater piece is about the unknown stories of Brooklyn’s abolitionist struggle, offering a hyperlocal history lesson while also exploring racial tensions past and present. In addition to the live performance, there will also be archival footage shown and a discussion with the cast and creators. Get additional show info here. The Space at Irondale, 85 S Oxford St, Fort Greene
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club celebrates Black History Month with a range of performers, including McCoy Mrubata’s Celebrate Africa; Afro-Brazilian performer Nilson Matta; a festive Mardi Gras celebration from the Gotham Kings; the Roy Hargrove Big Band playing Hargrove originals as well as standards; pianists including Aaron Diehl, Sean Mason and Cyrus Chestnut; and An Evening in Honor of Stanley Crouch, co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Check out full ticket and date information here. Dates throughout February, Upper West Side
New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society has two upcoming exhibits centered on Black History Month. First up is “Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw.” The exhibit includes more than 20 jars and jugs produced by Commeraw, who was born enslaved and became a free Black entrepreneur with a successful pottery business, between the late 1790s and 1819. Newly opened, the exhibit runs through May 28, and you can get more info here. Opening Feb. 24 is a series of 15 prints by the esteemed artist Kara Walker, “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated).” Walker based her work on illustrations from a two-volume anthology published in 1866, focusing on the omission of African Americans from the narrative. That exhibit runs through June 11, and you can get more info here. 170 Central Park West, Upper West Side
The National Jazz Museum in Harlem
In addition to their permanent collection of historical documents of jazz in the neighborhood, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem is co-hosting a few concerts happening this month worth checking out. Jazz vocalist Imani Rousselle will perform a free show at Hansborough Recreation Center on Feb. 10 from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Get more info here. Then on Feb. 18, jazz pianist and composer Sean Mason will perform a free show at Pelham Fritz Recreation Center from 2-3:30 p.m. Get more info here.
“Heritage: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future in Black Art”
The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, in conjunction with the Parks Department, will present “Heritage: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future in Black Art,” an exhibition featuring the artwork of NYC Parks employees exploring their Black heritage in various media. Artists included are Tuwanda Harmon, Preston R. Coston. Jr., Buddy Esquire, Claudette Ramos and Patrick Forman. The show, which runs Feb. 2-March 9, also includes vintage hip-hop flyers and invitations produced by NYC Parks’ Ebony Society. Find out more info about the free exhibit here. Arsenal Gallery, 64th St/Fifth Ave inside Central Park
24th Street: Inaugural Group Show
Cavalier Gallery in Chelsea is presenting its Inaugural Group Show of 2023, which features work from Haitian-born visual artist Guy Stanley Philoche’s newest series, “Give Us Our Flowers,” through the end of February. The series was started after Philoche’s best friend died suddenly last November. He was inspired to pay homage to Black historical figures, including James Baldwin, Jackie Robinson and Lena Waithe, as well as everyday cultural figureheads. “After the funeral I couldn’t stop painting my friend’s portrait and started thinking about others that had never received their praise,” Philoche said in a statement. “I wanted to make sure to call out specific people like Lena Waithe, but also different archetypes like the mother who is working every day for a better tomorrow for her two sons.” The group show will also feature works by William Nelson, Adam Umbach, Jim Rennert, George Rickey, Mark S. Kornbluth and Terry O’Neill. You can get more info on the show here. Cavalier Gallery, 530 West 24th St, Chelsea
Joe’s Pub is commemorating Black History Month this year with a ton of performances happening throughout February. Among the highlights: Afro Dominicano will bring Afro Carribean soul on Feb. 3; Ki Ki Hawkins will bring a mix of gospel, R&B, jazz and classical on Feb. 4; a large group of Broadway stars will honor André De Shields for his activism as a Black queer man and long-term HIV survivor at the annual GMHC’s Cabaret & Howard Ashman Award ceremony on Feb. 6; Broadway star Kevin Smith Kirkwood will perform his solo show “Classic Whitney: The Season of Love Show!” honoring Whitney Houston on Feb. 7; Xavier Smith’s Ladies of Soul Tribute will taken place Feb. 9; “For Colored Girls Broadway” composer, songwriter and vocalist Martha Redbone and her band of Funkateers will perform Feb. 10; the Black trans cabaret performance Eros: A Night of Passion with Ianne and The Baddies will happen Feb. 14; and Yemen Blues will perform a mix of Yemeni and West African influences with contemporary grooves from funk to mambo and the deep soul of old chants on Feb. 21. Get ticket info for all those shows and more here. Dates throughout February, 425 Lafayette St, Noho
Harlem Chamber Players
The Harlem Chamber Players, an ethnically diverse ensemble dedicated to bringing classical music to Harlem and other parts of the city, have hosted a free Black History Month celebration every year since their founding in 2008. On Feb. 16, they will perform their 15th annual BHM show at The Schomburg Center with host and performer (and WQXR evening host) Terrance McKnight, guest pianist and composer Aruán Ortiz and guest clarinetist Don Byron, playing a program including works by Ortiz, Byron, Duke Ellington and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Get more info about the show here.
The core quartet of the group — violinist Ashley Horne, violinist Claire Chan, violist William Frampton and cellist Wayne Smith — will also perform a few other times throughout the month, including on Feb. 10 at Third Street Music Settlement in the East Village, on Feb. 12 at the Brooklyn Public Library, and on Feb. 13 at the Sidewalk Studio at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, where they’ll perform Julius Eastman’s “Femenine” alongside Talea Ensemble. Dates throughout February, various locations
“Still I Rise”
City Winery will host a month-long BHM initiative titled “Still I Rise,” with a portion of programming proceeds going to groups including Black Feminist Future, Black Voters Matter and In Our Own Voice. Among the highlights are shows with percussionist and former Prince collaborator Sheila E., comedian Michelle Buteau and blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland. Check out ticket and date info here. Dates throughout February, City Winery, 25 11th Ave, Hudson River Park
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is presenting dozens of BHM events at their locations across the city and online, including live author talks and panels, book discussions, trivia and activities for kids. Among the many highlights are an online lecture on the poetry of Phillis Wheatley on Feb. 1; a conversation and book signing with Ricky Tucker, author of “AND THE CATEGORY IS..: Inside New York’s Vogue, House, And Ballroom Community”, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan on Feb. 8; a showing of “BlacKkKlansman” on at the Todt Hill-Westerleigh Library on Staten Island on Feb. 11; a book discussion of Koshersoul : The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by author Michael W. Twitty at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan on Feb. 16; and live jazz music by The Soul Guard Band at St. Agnes Library on the Upper West Side on Feb. 27. Check out their full calendar of BHM events here. Dates throughout February, various locations
“Mama I Want to Sing!”
A musical based on the life of singer Doris Troy, “Mama I Want to Sing!” will get a limited engagement Feb. 23-March 12 at El Museo’s El Teatro (formerly the Heckscher Theater). The musical focuses on the African American R&B and soul singer who had a top 10 hit with the iconic “Just One Look,” sang backup vocals with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, and became the first Black woman to sign to the Beatles’ Apple Records. You can get ticket info here. El Museo’s El Teatro, Harlem
The Harlem Fine Arts Show
The Harlem Fine Arts Show, which is billed as the largest traveling African Diaspora Art Show in the United States, will host its 15th annual Black History Month celebration over one weekend in Manhattan. They will have over 120 booths of art for sale over three days at The Glasshouse Midtown. The event takes place from Feb. 24-26, and you can get ticket info here. The Glasshouse Midtown, 660 12th Ave, Manhattan
“Queen Bess (The Bess Coleman Story)”
On six dates toward the end of February and start of March, Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning will present the play “Queen Bess (The Bessie Coleman Story)”, written by Tommy J. Moore. Coleman was the first African American, and the first Native American, woman to receive her international pilot’s license. The show runs Feb. 23 to March 4, and details are available here. Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, 161-4 Jamaica Ave, Jamaica
“Sedalia to Harlem: A Celebration of Black History”
On Feb. 25, Queens-based Musica Reginae Productions will host “Sedalia to Harlem – A Celebration of Black History,” an exploration of musical gems of the jazz, opera and African-American Spiritual genres. It’s hosted by MRP founder David Close, and will feature baritone Jay Aubrey Jones and tenor Byron Singleton. You can get ticket info here. Church in the Gardens, 50 Ascan Ave, Forest Hills