Museum News

National Museum of African American History and Culture Celebrates First Black History Month in New Building

January 17, 2017

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) commemorates Black History Month 2017 for the first time in its iconic new building on the National Mall. A variety of interesting and entertaining programs will take place in the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater, including film screenings, book discussions and signings and a concert by the U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” of works by African American composers. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public and will be live webcast at Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The celebration begins Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m., with a screening of I’m Not Your Negro (95 minutes, PG-13), Raoul Peck’s compelling new documentary based on literary icon James Baldwin’s final and unpublished manuscript Remember This House. The film, narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, explores the history of race relations in the United States through reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., NMAAHC will present a discussion with author Erica Armstrong Dunbar, history professor at the University of Delaware, about her new book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. The book will be available for sale and signing following the discussion. 

On Thursday, Feb. 9, at 6 to 8 p.m., the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African Art and NMAAHC will present From Tarzan to Tonto: Stereotypes as Obstacles Toward a More Perfect Union. This symposium will be a discussion among noted scholars, authors and critics about the persistent presence of stereotypes and the barriers they pose toward a more enlightened and inclusive society. Participants include Gaurav Desai, Tulane University; Adrienne Keene, Brown University; Tiya Miles, University of Michigan; Imani Perry, Princeton University; and Jessi Wente, film critic and director of film programs, TIFF Bell Lighthouse. The event will take place at the American Indian Museum’s Rasmuson Theater at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. in Washington, D.C. It will be live webcast at  

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. the museum will present NMAAHC Fashion Collection—Iconic Looks. Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer, Robin Givhan, will interview haute couture designers who have contributed to NMAAHC’s collections including Tracy Reese, who designed the dress Michelle Obama wore during her 2012 DNC speech and B Michael, whose beautiful designs have been worn by such renowned actresses as Cicely Tyson and Phylicia Rashad. The evening’s conversation will focus on their works, ideas about culture, inspiration, creativity and entrepreneurship. Registration for this program is strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcomed subject to space availability.

Wrapping up the month on Sunday, Feb. 26, from 3 to 5 p.m. will be A Celebration of Black Composers and Chamber Music Performed by Pershing’s Own. The U.S. Army Band, known as Pershing’s Own, will perform chamber-music works by esteemed African American classical music composers, including H. Leslie Adams, Valerie Coleman, David Sanford, Alvin Singleton and William Grant Still. The 90-minute concert, with intermission, will be followed by a Smithsonian-moderated discussion and an audience Q&A. Registration for this program is strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will be welcomed subject to space availability.

    The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened Sept. 24 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument, the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000. 

Media Contact(s): 

James Gordon (202) 633-0095;

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.