To celebrate Black History Month, we’re offering a look at venues and events that honor the importance of African-American figures in history and offer a celebration of contemporary African-American excellence. From museum explorations of historical art and happenings to modern film and poetry, this week’s Top 5 Events both take you back to the cultural history of African-Americans and offer a sample of the ways African-Americans shape Philadelphia today. So learn something and enjoy everything, because this lineup is a glimpse into history and filled with intriguing opportunities.
Underground Railroad in Philadelphia
When: February 7 & 8, 3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Where: Independence Visitor Center Theater, Market Street, Philadelphia Cost: Free!
The Underground Railroad was an extensive network of routes and safe houses used by slaves as a passage to free states and Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries. Philadelphia was a notable stop on this escape route to freedom. You can celebrate Black History Month by learning about the people and places connected to this pivotal era in American history at Independence National Historical Park, where a slide program details Philadelphia’s role in the Underground Railroad system. A park ranger will guide you through the program, highlighting the stories of Henry “Box” Brown, “The Father of the Underground Railroad” William Still, and more. Be sure to check out Independence National Historical Park’s other Black History Month program and events!
Represent: 200 Years of African American Art
When: Now through April 15th Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia Cost: Free with admission ($14)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses numerous collections of fine art, and among them are several by African-American artists. This marquee exhibition brings together more than 75 works from the museum’s growing collection, and celebrates over 50 artists that explore an array of mediums and themes. Some of the works include pieces by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippin, Alma Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems. The exhibition travels chronologically through critical historical periods, beginning with pre-Civil War works and moving through the Harlem Renaissance and into contemporary pieces. This historical and progressive breadth offers a wide perspective on the progression of African-American art. Works vary from decorative pottery and sculptures to modern abstract pieces and compelling photography, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy!
Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River
When: Daily, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Where: Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia Cost: $10
George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River during the American Revolution, but a history beyond the well-known one existed on this waterway. Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River explores the concept of freedom by examining the African perspective along the Delaware River. The show was created by a committee of leading African-American scholars and was curated by University of Pennsylvania’s Tukufu Zuberi. Zuberi is a practiced storyteller and PBS History Detectives host, and will introduce each major section in the exhibition. Themes of enslavement, emancipation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights highlight the show, and uncovered artifacts will be on display in the interactive museum. This exhibition offers the opportunity to examine a story that is part of Philadelphia and American history, one that has implications historically and contemporarily. Engaging storytelling and photos, videos, and artwork explore the meaning of “freedom” in this great exhibit by the water.
Ursula Rucker: My Father’s Daughter
When: February 6 & 7, 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Where: Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3689 Walnut Street, Philadelphia Cost: $20
Philadelphia-born Urusla Rucker is a spoken word recording artist whose compelling poetry techniques and stage presence make her an explosively strong performer. She has toured with 4Hero and King Britt, and has gained national and international acclaim. The show My Father’s Daughter is a live, epic poem that is accompanied by music and video. In the performance, Rucker tells her personal story of survival, one that traverses both pain and victory. Her raw and soulful poetry draws the parallels between her mother’s life and her own, illuminating how her relationships and struggles have shaped Rucker into the woman she is today. This show will be electric and inspiring; don’t miss out! Check out some of Rucker’s other work here.
Mysterious Travelers Concert Series: Anwar Marshall
When: February 9, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Where: Free Library of Philadelphia – Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia Cost: Free!
The Music Department at the Parkway Central Library, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Jazz Project and the Producers’ Guild, present free monthly concerts that feature up-and-coming artists as well as veteran performers. This month features Anwar Marshall, drummer an co-leader of a ten-piece ensemble called Fresh Cut Orchestra. The ensemble regularly plays at the Painter Bride Art Center and the Kimmel Center. Marshall’s music has collaborated with noteworthy musicians Dave Douglas, Tim Warfield, Duane Eubanks, and many others. These deep grooves and soulful sounds are sure to be entertaining, so don’t miss this free show!