Region salutes contributions of African-Americans

DAYTRIPPING

January 29, 1995|By Dorothy Fleetwood | Dorothy Fleetwood,Contributing Writer

Black History Month in February salutes the contributions of African-Americans, and a variety of programs are planned to celebrate black heritage at museums and historic sites around the region.

As part of its Winter Discovery Series, Colonial Williamsburg presents a program focusing on the lives of slaves and free blacks in the 18th-century Colonial capital, where blacks constituted nearly 50 percent of the population. "Ain't I Your Equal?: African-American Life and Struggle in 18th-Century Williamsburg" takes place this week from Tuesday to Saturday and features dramatic re-enactments of courthouse cases, vignettes of 18th-century black women, a talk on the transformation of African musical traditions, lectures, films and walking tours. Admission is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or Good Neighbor card. Call (800) HISTORY.

Smithsonian activities

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington offers a full month of exhibitions and activities relating to African-American heritage. Most are free.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, which resulted in the registration of thousands of new black voters. The Smithsonian's keynote event will be a discussion with two people who were involved in that effort: Joyce Ladner, acting president of Howard University, and James Farmer, professor of civil-rights history at Mary Washington College and founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The program also features excerpts from the documentary film "Freedom on My Mind," which includes interviews with Freedom Summer participants and archival footage. The keynote event will take place at noon Feb. 8 in Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History. The documentary film will be shown in its entirety at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in the National Museum of American History's Carmichael Auditorium.

On the same theme, "Artistic Freedom: Recollections of the Civil Rights Movement" is an original collaborative production about the civil-rights movement and the Mississippi Freedom Summer that combines poetry, prose and music. It will be presented at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 in Carmichael Auditorium.

The National Museum of American History's Program in African-American Culture will present a four-day conference Wednesday through Saturday, examining the many roles that African-Americans have played in films over the past 100 years. The National Portrait Gallery offers films about the lives of some well-known abolitionists: Sojourner Truth (Wednesday); Harriet Tubman (Feb. 6); Frederick Douglass (Feb. 13); and Ida B. Wells (Feb. 20). All films will be shown at 12:30 p.m.

Children can enjoy performances by storytellers at the National Museum of African Art from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. On Feb. 26, Ashanti tales from Ghana will be told at 2 p.m., and on selected dates museum docents and staff will read children's books about Africa.

At 2 p.m. Feb. 11, actor-storyteller Bill Grimmette will dramatize the lives of several African-Americans who have been commemorated on U.S. stamps at the National Postal Museum.

In conjunction with the National Museum of American Art's current exhibition, "Free Within Ourselves: African-American Artists From the Museum's Collection," a concert of jazz and blues will be performed by students and alumni of the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts at 2 p.m. Feb. 11 in the museum's third-floor Lincoln Gallery. The D.C. Blues Society will present "Blues From Highway 61" from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 18 in Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History. The concert features the music of early blues performers who worked as sharecroppers or at other jobs along Highway 61, known as the "gateway to the North." The Smithsonian Associates presents "Frederick Douglass' Washington," a tour that takes participants to places in Washington relevant to Douglass' life, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 11. Tickets cost $42. Call (202) 357-3030.

These are some of the many programs offered by the Smithsonian. For a complete list or brochure, call (202) 357-2700, or to hear a recording of event highlights, call (202) 357-4574.

Stratford's Heritage Day

Stratford Hall Plantation in Stratford, Va., birthplace of Robert E. Lee, welcomes the public free of charge on African-American Heritage Day Feb. 26.

Entertainment will be provided by costumed interpreters from Colonial Williamsburg, who will perform a program of African-American music, dancing and storytelling. Visitors may be asked to join the dancing or play a musical instrument. Performances will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and refreshments will be served in Stratford's Stetson Reception Center. That day the plantation dining room will be open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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