Throughout February, The New York Public Library is commemorating Black History Month with a myriad of online events and programs, virtual exhibitions, information and educational tools, and reading recommendations to amplify Black voices, history and experiences. These offerings, which underscore the work the Library does all year in this area, aim to help foster a better understanding of Black culture and the Black experience.
- Multiple reading recommendation lists to help guide, inform, and entertain New Yorkers (most of the books featured are available for immediate e-checkout via The New York Public Library’s e-reader app SimplyE, available for iOS and Android).
- Virtual programs and discussions with authors, activists, writers, and scholars such as Angela Johnson, Ibram X. Kendi, Keisa N. Blain, Heather McGee, and The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s own Dr. Michelle Commander.
- Black History Month focused virtual storytimes for kids
- Several online exhibitions featuring items from the Library’s research collections
Information on the over 100 virtual events happening for adults, kids, and teens across the Library system (which serves the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, but is accessible to all virtually) can be found at nypl.org/events/blackhistorymonth.
More specific highlights include:
- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting a series of programs throughout the month:
- Civil Rights Legacies: Martin, Malcolm, Gwen, and Julian on February 4 at 6:30 PM.
- Between the Lines: Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain – On February 9 at 7 PM National Book Award winner and anti-racist activist Ibram X. Kendi and award-winning historian, Keisha N. Blain will lead a discussion centered on Four Hundred Souls, a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans, which they co-edited.
- The Schomburg Center’s own Dr. Michelle Commander will host an event on February 16 for the launch of her book Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition. The online exhibit Subversion & The Art of Slavery Abolition is a complementary resource to Commander’s discussion for those interested in archival materials and how abolitionists engaged with the arts to agitate for enslaved people’s liberty.
- The Library also has a variety of virtual events planned featuring guest speakers, performances, and materials from its archives, including:
- Doc Chat Episode 14: Exploring the Black Alternative Press of the 1960s and 1970s – Join NYPL’s Julie Golia and Amaka Okechukwu, professor of sociology at George Mason University on February 4 as they analyze excerpts from Black alternative periodicals of the 1960s and 1970s and discuss the historical context in which they were written, published, and circulated.
- Black History Month Celebration: Songs, Dance & Stories – Urban Stages presents an interactive performance on February 16 featuring stories with historical tie-ins.
- Racism’s Hidden Costs: Heather McGhee – LIVE from the NYPL welcomes American political commentator and social policy expert Heather McGhee, who will explain the hidden costs of racism on American lives during her event on February 18 at 8 pm.
- The Harry Belafonte Black Liberation Speaker Series: Charles Blow with Hilton Als – Copresented by LIVE from the NYPL and the Schomburg Center, the acclaimed columnist and commentator will discuss his book, The Devil You Know, on February 23.
- Black Entrepreneurs Who Are Making History – On February 25, the Business Center will host an “Ask Me Anything” event featuring a panel of Black entrepreneurs.
Branch librarians from across the system also created booklists that highlight influential Black figures and moments from American History. These lists feature important resources at the Library and include books for adults, teens, and children that speak to historical moments throughout time and cover a wide-range of subjects. For a more in-depth scope of the Black experience activists, students, archivists and curators can check out the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List, which was published last year.
In addition to programs and reading resources, the Schomburg Center will also host several online exhibitions:
- Subversion & The Art of Slavery Abolition – an exhibition that illustrates how abolitionists engaged with the arts to agitate for enslaved people’s liberty in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
- Traveling While Black: A Century of Pleasure & Pain & Pilgrimages – With images and artifacts depicting a history of travel from the Great Migration through to the pilgrims and pleasure seekers of our time, Traveling While Black explores displacement, resistance, and questions surrounding Black bodies in motion;
- Femmetography: The Gaze Shifted – Curated by a cohort of the Schomburg Center’s Teen Curators, Femmetography takes as its starting point Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe’s groundbreaking 1986 opus, Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers, to explore the power of the Black feminine gaze.
The Library will also honor the legacy of distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian Carter G. Woodson, who initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week in 1926 which later led to Black History Month. The Woodson Project, a group of staff from across the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, have created branch programs, booklists, and blog posts that support empowering the Black community, with a unique focus on the impact and influence of Black scientists and artists in the various STEAM fields.
About The New York Public Library
For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.