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Black History Month 2023: Learn, Enjoy and Take Action

Find ideas for local and virtual events and new ways to celebrate

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Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Black History Month is a time to recognize achievements, reflect on history and come together, but it’s also a time to continue to push for equality and encourage resilience.

​Every February, Americans celebrate Black history with in-person and online events in ways that range from educating themselves about current events to shopping Black-owned businesses and taking action on important issues. That’s reflected in the 2023 theme for the month — Black Resistance — chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

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It’s a powerful theme, says Melanie Adams, director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C. ​

“Black people have been resisting since day one,” she says. “African Americans are resilient, and regardless of the issues we face, we find a way to overcome them. I think that resistance and resilience go hand in hand in that way.”​

This month, the Anacostia museum will feature a discussion with artist Yetunde Sapp about her Justice for Breonna mural, honoring Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020. The Feb. 19 event, titled “Art and Calls to Action with Yetunde Sapp,” will include a viewing of the brightly colored 8-foot-by-12-foot mural featuring the words “take action.” ​

That event is just one of many ways to celebrate Black History Month, which was launched in 1926 as Negro History Week, thanks to historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland, who wanted to highlight the contributions of Black Americans. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. ​

Although Black History Month is an important marker, Adams says, reflecting on accomplishments and pushing for equality should extend beyond February. “It should be commemorated, but it should also be celebrated that we're still here and we're working to create a better world for those who come after us," she says. ​

Here are some other ideas for celebrating and learning this month. ​

Visit museums

There are more than 100 museums across the U.S. that focus on African American history and culture, according to WorldAtlas, which has a full list here. A notable one is the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, which pays homage to the Black soldiers who fought in the American Indian Wars. Visitors can see displays of the soldiers’ uniforms and equipment, as well as exhibits featuring Black women who served and art inspired by the military. In Cincinnati, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center features permanent and traveling exhibits beginning with the era of the Underground Railroad in the 19th century. There’s an interactive experience highlighting stories of perseverance from 1830-1865, and “Invisible,” which explores examples of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. ​

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On the virtual side, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has a searchable collection you can explore online. One of its newer exhibitions, called “Spirit in the Dark,” focuses on religion in Black music, activism and popular culture. Another option is the Dance Theater of Harlem, the first Black classical ballet company, founded in 1969. It has four online exhibits showcasing the history of the theater.​

Attend local and virtual events

Many cities and towns across the country host various Black History Month events. The ASALH kicked off its monthlong Black History Month Festival on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. with a panel discussion on the theme of Black Resistance. The free public event included writer and professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Black studies scholar Charisse Burden-Stelly, and it was moderated by author and history professor Martha Biondi. Check the ASALH calendar for more events, including a conversation with Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III of the Smithsonian Institute (Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m. ET) that AARP is sponsoring. In addition, AARP is hosting a virtual concert with singer Eric Benét (Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. ET); and a Real Conversations with AARP event featuring a conversation with Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. ET). Click the links above to register for the events. ​

Another avenue to explore is your local library. In New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (part of the New York Public Library system) will feature an exhibition called “Boundless: 10 Years of Seeding Black Comic Futures” through Feb. 28. This archival collection features photos, clips and memorabilia related to Black comic books. ​​

Many cities have guides for local Black History events. Atlanta’s guide points visitors to the annual Black History Month Parade, happening Feb. 4, which will travel from downtown Thomasville to the Ritz Amphitheater. Other suggestions include jazz concerts, places to eat and a Feb. 19 Alvin Ailey dance performance at the Fox Theatre. Across the country, California’s Black History Month guide highlights a variety of historical sites, including the Julian Hotel, which was founded by Black couple Margaret and Albert Robinson in 1887, and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. ​

Have deep conversations

You don’t have to travel far to deepen your understanding of Black history. You can start at home and within your own community, says Angela Siner, director of the Africana Studies and Anthropology programs at the University of Toledo. ​

She suggests talking with Black people in your family and/or community to learn their stories and perspectives on all aspects of life, from their upbringing to the ways they are making an impact in the community. A few examples of questions to ask: What was your childhood like? Tell me about the struggles you’ve faced in life. Who inspires you and why? ​

​Siner adds that there’s value in talking with individuals of all ages. “Not just the oldest family [and community] members, but across the generations,” she says. “Look for somebody from the baby boomers to the millennials and the Gen Zs, and just ask them questions about who they are, how they feel and what life is like as a Black person.”​

Support Black-owned businesses ​

Buying from Black-owned businesses empowers owners, supports local economies and celebrates Black culture through the products and services sold. ​

​As you shop in February, look for Black-owned businesses that offer the products and services you’re looking for. AARP’s newsletter, which celebrates Black women, has recommendations for Black-owned catering businessesvacation rentalsrestaurantsdance studios and more.​

​Also consider visiting a local event featuring Black-owned businesses. One example is the Florida Black Expo, set for Feb. 9-11 in Jacksonville. The three-day event, now in its 17th year, features some 300 businesses and attracts more than 17,000 visitors.​​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 30, 2023. It has been updated to reflect new information. 

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