Online Experiences to Virtually Celebrate Black History Month
Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project: Watch interviews with civil rights activists, read essays, view historic photos and learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1961 visit to Seattle at the University of Washington’s website.
“When History Is Your Story,” MOHAI: On Feb. 24, hear from community members inspired and impacted by local African American history, featuring Black Heritage Society of Washington State collections and research.
“George Bush, Jacob Lawrence, and the Impact of Black Pioneers in Washington State”: On Feb. 25, learn about Washington’s first black settler — George Bush — and celebrated artist Jacob Lawrence in this Facebook Live presentation by the Washington State Historical Society and the Northwest African American Museum (read more about NAAM’s virtual events and exhibitions below).
Virtual Music Experiences: Take a virtual tour of the Ray Charles Memorial Library; learn to play piano from Quincy Jones, whose lessons led to this this global virtual recital; enjoy a classic performance by Ernestine Anderson at Dukes’ Place in New Orleans; watch a YouTube interview with Julian Priester; and load up your playlist with this long list of Seattle bands and musicians, including The Black Tones’ Eva Walker, who recently shared her music discovery tips with AAA Washington members.
National Museum of African American History and Culture: Explore the virtual exhibitions and online collections at this Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C.Explore the virtual exhibitions and online collections at this Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C.
Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition: Watch video replays of virtual workshops hosted by this group in January 2021.
The Northwest African American Museum: After streaming its Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations online, the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) is planning more virtual experiences for Black History Month in February and throughout 2021 — the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Seattle — with speakers, panel discussions and musical performances for all ages.
“Although we are located in Seattle, we tell a regional story, and we help all to understand Northwest history through an African American lens,” NAAM Executive Director LaNesha DeBardelaben says.
NAAM’s virtual programming includes interviews with artists like Hiawatha D., whose “Iconic Black Women” exhibit was a highlight of 2020. (Pictured above is his “10:22 a.m.,” a portrait of the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.)
This museum of Black art, history and culture hosts permanent and rotating exhibitions, book giveaways, and celebrations such as Juneteenth, Grandparents Day and HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) Sunday. King Day each January is “one of the most significant days for family activities for the museum,” DeBardelaben says.
The museum’s building is a part of history. Built in 1909, the Colman School was the first school in Seattle attended by African American students. When the school building closed in 1985, activists occupied it for eight years until the city agreed to fund a black history museum, ending the longest civil disobedience action in American history. The museum opened in 2008, and the building became a Seattle landmark the following year.
When the museum reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic, DeBardelaben recommends curling up with Black books and poetry in the reading room and visiting the genealogy center.
“People can literally discover their family history,” she says.
Visit the adjacent, ADA-accessible Jimi Hendrix Park to learn about the Seattle musician’s career and childhood growing up in the Central District. Seattle Public Library’s nearby Douglass-Truth Branch (named after Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth) has one of the largest African American literature collections on the West Coast.
“It’s a great complement to the history we tell,” DeBardelaben says.
– Written by Jim Hammerand
– Top photo of Hiawatha D.’s “10:22 a.m.” courtesy of NAAM
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey, and was updated in February 2021.
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