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Explore African American History and Culture

Preserving North Carolina African American History & Culture

Profiles of cultural preservationists from North Carolina who have dedicated their lives to preserving the stories, memories and contributions of African Americans from our state.

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North Carolina is nationally renowned for its rich African American history.

To help you explore that heritage we've gathered some of the best places to experience African American music, offer engaging on-site programming that highlight stories from black history and interpret four historic sites that emphasize the African American experience.

With our programming you can get a broad picture of North Carolina's African American history or dive deep into a specific subject. There's so much to explore!

Coming Up Across North Carolina

Featured Events Celebrating Black History Month in 2019

Eastern N.C.

Eastern N.C.

Eastern N.C.

February. Roanoke Island Festival Park. Social Media Presentations. Visit the RIFP Facebook, Instagram and blogposts during February as it honors Black History Month highlighting the Freedman’s Colony, Champney drawings and Pea Island Life Saving Station. RIFP reopens March 8.

Feb. 1-22. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. First Friday. Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response Art Show at Arts of Albemarle. The visual impact of the Harlem Renaissance will be on display at Arts of Albemarle, showcasing the impact of artists including Selma Burke and Aaron Douglas through works by today’s local artists; a collaboration among the Museum of the Albemarle, Arts of Albemarle and the community advocacy group Voices for a Diverse Culture.

Feb. 2. Museum of the Cape Fear, Fayetteville.  Dancing Stories with April C. Turner. Turner uses dances, stories and songs from traditional West African culture to affirm community building concepts such as working together, integrity, and perseverance. Learn the meanings of West African dance symbols, uses of the songs and dances in a fun, high-energy journey. The audience will enjoy being introduced to the West African language, Wolof. 2 p.m. Free.

February. Historic Edenton. Harriet Jacobs Walking Tours.  The tour highlights the life of Harriet Jacobs and the maritime underground railroad that led to freedom. The program is aimed to the eighth- grade curriculum. Pre-registration required, call (252) 482-2637. Feb. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23. 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. $2.50.

Feb. 2. CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, Kinston. U.S. Colored Troops and the Civil War-Lunch and Learn/Battlefield Tour. Hear two lectures on the USCT role in the war in eastern North Carolina. Learn about recruitment, equipment and training, missions and combat. Lunch and tour of Wyse Fork Battlefield included. Space is limited, reservations required. 11 a.m. $10.

Feb. 6. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. History for Lunch: A Look at the Harlem Renaissance. Dr. Leon Pringle, Albemarle Voices for Diverse Culture, will speak on the historic importance of the Harlem Renaissance. 12:15 p.m. Free.

Feb. 8. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response Art Show, Elementary School Day. Performance by Atumpan-the Talking Drums followed by hands-on activities that explore literary, musical, performance and visual arts of the Harlem Renaissance. Inclement weather date Feb. 22. 9 a.m-1 p.m. Free.

Feb. 15. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response Art Show, Middle and High School Day. Douglas Jackson, assistant professor, visual and performing arts, Elizabeth City State, will discuss his grandmother Anita Scott and the Renaissance. Students will use immersive experiences to measure its impact on arts today. Inclement weather date Feb. 22. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Free.

Feb. 16. Somerset Place State Historic Site, Creswell. Made of the Land Outreach Program at Salem Missionary Baptist Church, Columbia. The program describes objects made at Somerset by enslaved workers and white families in 1843. A costumed historic interpreter will discuss artifacts that were grown, constructed or purchased for the plantation’s everyday operations.  Noon. Free.

Feb. 16, 23. Historic Edenton. Edenton: From Civil War to Civil Rights. Tour focuses on African American life in Edenton from pre-emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement, highlighting black leaders, businessmen and educators from Edenton and the Albemarle region. Departs from Historic Edenton visitor center and lasts about an hour. 11 a.m. RSVP to (252) 482-2637. $2.50.

Feb. 16. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. Harlem Renaissance: A Forward Movement Exhibit Opening. View the exhibit, try 1920s style hats and accessories and enjoy refreshments. Adults and children may participate in creative activities. The exhibit will showcase through artifacts the impact of Harlem Renaissance artists on contemporary artists and the cultural ideas from that period through Feb. 22. Free.

Feb. 16. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. Harlem Renaissance: A Forward Movement. Historic artifacts related to the Harlem Renaissance will be on view which explore cultural ideas emerging during that vibrant era. Flapper fashions, pro-black literature and African American art will be shown through March 30. Free.

Feb. 21. Tryon Palace, New Bern. African American Lecture Series. Music of Black Migrationers. Music has been a mainstay in the African American culture to sustain spirits and hope. Dick Knight & Company will share music of southerners who fled injustice in the South, including W. C. Handy, Huddie Lead Belly, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone, in the N.C. History Center. 7 p.m. Free.

Piedmont

Piedmont

Jan. 28. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. African American Cultural Celebration. Join the statewide kickoff to Black History Month. Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society, the18th annual day-long African American Cultural Celebration features scores of musicians, storytellers, dancers, chefs, historians, playwrights, authors, artists, reenactors and more. 10:30 a.m. Free.

Feb. 1. Historic Stagville, Durham. Stagville Under the Stars. Join Historic Stagville and Morehead Planetarium as a storyteller shares African folk tales about the sun, moon and stars. Peer through a telescope as the planetarium provides a tour of the night sky. 6 p.m. Free.

Feb. 4. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. LIVE! Manners Matter. Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum Site Manager Jamie Jones and Museum of History Educator Sally Bloom in a livestream explain that school founder Dr. Brown reminded students, civil rights leaders, artists, and others that politeness and grace were more than “nice to have,” but that Manners Mattered at that elite prep school for African Americans and elsewhere. Online registration for schools here. 10:15 a.m. Free.

Feb. 9, 23. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. African American History Highlights Tour. Docent-led tours through exhibits highlight the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina.1:30 p.m. Free.

Feb. 9. N.C. State Capitol, Raleigh. Black History Month Read-In. Celebrate literature as words and experiences of African Americans echo in a structure built by African Americans for whom it was illegal to read. Local authors, community leaders and students read to children, teens and adults. Presented in partnership with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, Wake County’s Richard B. Harrison Library and the N.C. Government and Heritage Library. 1 p.m. Free.

Feb. 9. Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, Sedalia. Palmer Personalities. During these special tours visitors will meet actors portraying notable personalities from the school’s history, including Dr. Brown’s family. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Free.

Feb. 10. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. Music of the Carolinas: Donna Washington. Author, storyteller, performer Donna Washington, well-known spoken word recording artist, will perform. 3 p.m. Free tickets distributed at 2 p.m.

Feb. 13. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. History á la Carte. Running for Freedom: Enslaved Runaways in North Carolina, 1775-1840. Learn how relatives of men, women and children searched for loved ones escaping slavery based on newspaper advertisements detailing physical descriptions, personality traits, locations, and rewards, from historian Dr. Freddie Parker. Noon. Free.

Feb. 21. St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh. Public Art and Public Memory. The N.C. African American Heritage Commission partners with Envision Saint Agnes for a reception and panel discussion, Public Art and Public Memory “A Community Conversation Honoring African American Heritage Through Public Art,” in the Prezell Robinson Library. 6 p.m. Free.

Feb. 23. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. Fascinating Figures Workshop. Artist Pinkie Strother is known for her three-dimensional figures that place everyday people in historical scenes, as was Ernie Barnes whose work is on exhibit. In this hands-on workshop, you will see works by Barnes and Strother, then create one. Ages 12 and up; 1 p.m. Pre-registration required. $20 for non-museum members.

February. Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, Sedalia. Black History Month School Tours. Students will learn of the important role Dr. Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute played in the lives of African Americans in North Carolina before it was a historic site. On a tour of Canary Cottage and the campus, hear of famous African Americans from actors to politicians who came to Palmer. Program meets N.C. curriculum standards. Lunch arrangements available. For information and reservations contact Education Coordinator Sonya Laney at sonya.laney@ncdcr.gov or call (336) 449-4846.

February. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. Exhibits: The North Carolina Roots of Artist Ernie Barnes through March 3, The Green Book Mini Case, through Feb. 28.

February. N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer. Special Exhibit: Safe Bus Company. Exhibit of a bus from the Safe Bus Company, formed in Winston-Salem to provide transportation to African-American workers in Winston-Salem who were underserved. Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., also on March 1-2; March 3 noon to 5 p.m. Regular admission; adults $6, seniors/military $5, Ages three-12 $4, two and under free.

February. N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer. Special Exhibit: Rise Above: Tribute to Tuskegee Airmen. A touring mobile movie theater with inspiring history lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. The 160-degree panoramic film highlights the courage and determination of the airmen with spectacular footage of the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang flyer. Feb. 27-28, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., also on March 1-2; March 3, noon-5 p.m. Regular admission; adults $6, seniors/military $5, Ages three-12 $4, two and under free.

Western N.C.

Western N.C.

Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23. Reed Gold Mine, Midland. African American Miners in North Carolina. Saturday tours focused on the site and the mine that tell stories of African American miners at Reed Gold Mine in the region. 1 p.m.  $2 for ages eight and older.  

Feb. 21. N.C. Horne Creek Farm, Pinnacle. African American History Talk. An examination of local families, the Sawyers and Cundiffs, showing what the lives of African Americans were like in turn-of-the-century North Carolina. 12:45 p.m. Free.

Feb. 23. N.C. Horne Creek Farm, Pinnacle. Tour of the Hauser and Sawyer Cemeteries. A guided tour explores the historic white and African American cemetery at Horne Creek Farm. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Free.

February. Mountain Gateway Museum, Old Fort. African Americans in the Mountains. Weekly social media posts featuring African Americans in western North Carolina.

Black History Month Spotlight: Harriet Jacobs

 

After nearly seven years hiding in a tiny garret above her grandmother’s home, Harriet Ann Jacobs took a step other slaves dared to dream in 1842; she secretly boarded a boat in Edenton, N.C., bound for Philadelphia, New York and, eventually, freedom. The young slave woman’s flight, and the events leading up to it, are documented in heart-wrenching detail in her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, self-published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent.

A significant personal history by an African American woman, Harriet Jacobs’ story is as remarkable as the writer who tells it. During a time when it was unusual for slaves to read and write, self-publishing a first-hand account of slavery’s atrocities was extraordinary. That it was written by a woman, unprecedented.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Experience the Magic of African American Music

A guide to music sites, artists and traditions of eastern North Carolina, our African American Music Trails project is a celebration of jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, blues, church music, rap, marching bands and the musicians and places in eastern North Carolina where music has been a part of family, church and community life for generations.

Find Authentic North Carolina in the African American Music of the East

Telling the African American Story Through Historic Places

State Parks with African American Roots

Before being integrated in the 1960s, North Carolina had three segregated state parks for African Americans. Visitors to those parks today can learn more about this period in our history.