This February, explore NYC while learning about the trials and triumphs of the black experience in America. Roger Smith recommends the best ways to honor Black History Month in the city.
Permanent works of public art throughout New York City parks commemorate African-Americans who played a significant role in the development of the city and nation. During Black History Month, visit the beautiful sculptures that commemorate these historically significant figures.
Frederick Douglass Memorial
This bronze and granite monument pays tribute to abolitionist, writer and orator Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born into slavery, but escaped to New York in 1838. Here, he documented and spoke about his experiences, which inspired the masses. Symbolic and decorative elements of the sculpture portray the life of Douglass, including his escape to the north and the slaves’ passage to freedom.
Frederick Douglass Sculpture: 301 Frederick Douglass Cir.
Harriet Tubman Memorial
This cast-bronze monument honors abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery, Tubman herself escaped to freedom on the Underground Railroad in 1849. Following her journey to the north, she dedicated her life to helping others achieve their freedom—never ceasing to campaign for equal rights for African-Americans and women.
Harriet Tubman Memorial: St. Nicholas Ave. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.
Brooklyn Historical Society: “Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom”
This exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society, which itself is located in a landmark 1881 building, explores the role of Brooklynites in the anti-slavery movement from the American Revolution onwards. From photographs to local newspapers to census records, historical artifacts reference the local effort to abolish slavery.
Brooklyn Historical Society: 128 Pierrepont St.
Harlem Needle Arts: “The Rhythmic Art of Thread”
Curated by Harlem Needle Arts with support from NYC Park’s, works from “The Rhythmic Art of Thread”explore culture, spirituality, history and icons. The exhibition examines the influence of the African aesthetic in contemporary art, merging techniques of quilting, applique, mixed media, screening, fabric collage and fiber fusion. The result is a story told through textile art, told by contemporary artists including Michael A. Cummings, Shimoda Emanuel and Ife Felix.
The Arsenal Gallery: 830 Fifth Ave.
Keith de Lellis Gallery: “Black Lives: Photographs by Beuford Smith”
This photographic exhibit by Beuford Smith focuses on the experience of the African-American during the tumultuous ’60s in New York. Smith was a founding member of Kamoinge, a forum of African-American photographers. The exhibition will be on view at Keith de Lellis Gallery until March 25.
Keith de Lellis Gallery: 1045 Madison Ave.
“If you take away one thing about ‘Welcome to Harlem’ it should be that we love Harlem and are very proud of our neighborhood….Once the sun goes down, the city comes alive with the sights and sounds that made Harlem famous.”
Harlem Afternoon Jazz Tour
Harlem is the birthplace of jazz. Here, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis are forever-immortalized, as artists pay tributes to these legends almost every night. Take a tour of historic 125th Street and the surrounding area, then sit back and enjoy the soulful sounds of a live jazz concert.
Harlem Food Tasting Tour
Experience history by tasting it. The Harlem Food Tasting Tour will excite your taste buds with bites at six of Harlem’s best restaurants. Stops include Harlem Karibe, Jacobs’ Soul Food and Lady Lexis Sweets. In addition to the tastings, explore the local history, culture and architecture of Central Harlem and Mount Morris Historic Park District.