Celebrate Black History Month at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum


The Reginald F. Lewis Museum presents thought-provoking events celebrating Black History Month spanning the Civil War and Antebellum periods through the Civil Rights Movement, to the present day. The capstone program is a special discussion of two Civil War-era diaries by free African Americans on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 1 p.m. As diaries by African Americans from the Antebellum and Civil War periods are extremely rare, visitors will have a unique chance to hear about the everyday life of free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic region during that time. All events to be held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum located at 830 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore City.

“There are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history… Davis’s diary…is…extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class of resources.” — The University of South Carolina Press on Notes from a Colored Girl

Freedom’s Diaries: Diaries of Free African Americans from the Antebellum and Civil War Era Saturday, February 7th at 1 p.m.

Dr. Karsonya Whitehead

(Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Karsonya Whitehead

“Since there are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history, Davis’s diary…is rendered extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class of resources,” writes publisher University of South Carolina press about Dr. Karsonya Whitehead’s Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis (published May 2014). The book uncovers the story of a woman in Philadelphia’s vibrant free black community through the prism of identity, race, and class. Dr. Whitehead is assistant professor of Communication, and African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland.

Henry Louis Gates writes, “’Today has been a memorable day. I thank God I have been here to see it.’ So begins the pocket diaries of free black woman Emilie Davis of Philadelphia on the day of Emancipation at the midpoint of the Civil War. Her words also capture my feelings in seeing Davis’s diaries published under the expert eye of Karsonya Wise Whitehead, whose scholarly annotations not only set the scene but reveal how this ‘everyday’ domestic-dressmaker’s decision to record her thoughts at the critical hours of the African American journey was itself an emancipatory act.”

In addition, Dr. Myra Y. Armstead, Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies at Bard College, discusses Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America (published February 2012), which traces the life of an escaped slave from Maryland who became a master gardener and kept a diary for over three decades. Booklist;calls Freedom’s Gardener a “meticulously sourced and carefully reasoned portrait.”

Programming For and By Youth

The Griot’s Eye Youth Film and Culture Festival on Saturday, February 14th

Youth present their works in film, theater, music, dance, and poetry on Saturday, February 14 at 12pm. The Griot’s Eye is an arts-based youth leadership and community-development program that equips urban youth with technical and cultural skills to produce compelling social media programs that address relevant issues in their lives. Special admission $5.

WJZ-TV Black History Month Oratory Contest on Sunday, February 15th

Twenty semi-finalists from high schools in Maryland present their memorized essays on selected quotes from African American historical and cultural figures. A panel of judges will select the top three winners who will receive cash prizes and other items from the event sponsors. The annual event is hosted on Sunday, February 15 at 12pm by WJZ-TV.

African American Art: An Intro for Kids On Saturday, February 21 at 3pm, explore African American art with teaching artist, Culture Queen. Families will see a short children’s video about African American artists, take a mini gallery tour, and create their own artwork inspired by an artist.

Open House

The museum holds its annual open house on February 28, 10am with free admission to celebrate Black History Month. Families and friends are invited for a day full of interactive tours, activities and live entertainment. Sponsored by Verizon. Free.

Documentary Films

Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks on Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 2 p.m.

This 90-minute documentary takes an intimate look at the life and career of Gordon Parks, a celebrated photographer, novelist, journalist, poet, musician and filmmaker. The film stretches across two centuries as it traces his life and career from abject poverty in Kansas City, circa 1912, to his astonishing and unprecedented rise as a top photographer for Vogue, Life, and other magazines. The film also documents his later years as a filmmaker and composer up to 2006, the year of his death. Though Parks’ subject matter widely varied, his biggest claim to fame was his heart-stopping photographs of the Southern civil rights movement in the 1960s for Life magazine. Aside from footage and voice-overs of Parks himself, Half Past Autumn features Parks’ children and ex-wives, as well as celebrities and life-long friends Russell Simmons and Gloria Vanderbilt. In conjunction with the exhibition For Whom It Stands.