CENTRAL FLORIDA — Black History Month is celebrated every February to honor the contributions and legacies of African Americans across U.S. history. Since it was first nationally recognized in 1976, the month is used to educate others and celebrate the achievements of pioneers, from Harriet Tubman to Katherine Johnson.
There will be events held all month to honor Black history. Here’s a list of the celebrations happening in the Central Florida area.
Black History Month Art Exhibition
(Opening reception Feb. 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Terrace Hall on first floor of Orlando City Hall)
The exhibition celebrates the creativity, inspiration and cultural heritage of African American visual artists. It will run from Feb. 2 until April 30.
Black History Month Kickoff
(Feb. 3, 11:30 a.m. - Holden Heights Community Center)
In celebration of with the historical contributions of African Americans, the Coalition of 100 Black Women — Central Florida, Alianza, Ms. Betty Resilience Hub, Community Equity Project, Unitarian Universalist Justice of Florida, Christ the King Episcopal Church, Renacer Foundation and the Institute of Afrodiasporic Studies sponsors this event. It starts with a Climate Justice Luncheon calling for all faith-based, civic and community lead organizations to participate. The Resilience to Restoration Workshop starts at 3 p.m., and a ribbon-cutting and Justice 40 listening session begins at 6 p.m. All events emphasize climate justice, funding opportunities and establishing resilience through education. The luncheon is free, but registration is required.
Dedication of Luminaries
(Feb. 3, 5:45 p.m. — Luminary Green at Creative Village)
Officials will light the first 12 luminary memorials to honor the lives and legacies of community leaders who made the Parramore neighborhood a better, brighter place.
- NOTE: Details on this event could change because of potential weather conditions, the city announced Friday morning.
Emotional Rollercoaster: Love Letter to Life
(Feb. 3, 6:30-9 p.m. - Orlando Repertory Theatre's Black Box)
onePULSE Foundation is partnering with the Orange County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative and Bethune-Cookman University to present a special performance of the original readers theater piece. Created by Bethune-Cookman’s Theatre Troupe 1904 in response to social issues affecting African Americans, the presentation explores topics such as race, body image, sexuality, relationships and peer pressure as a microcosm of life’s ups and downs. The free event will also include a chat-back session with the young performers hosted by Star 94.5 radio host Monica May, as well as complimentary authentic African American cuisine. Seating is limited, so reserve a seat if you would like to go.
33rd Annual National African American Read-In
(Feb. 5, 2 p.m. — Orange County Library System main stage, Orlando Public Library)
U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, WMFE host Talia Blake, Grammy-nominated songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nkosinathi “Nathi” Gcabashe, Nerd Nite Orlando host Ricardo Williams, WFTV Channel 9 anchor Daralene Jones, XL 106.7 host Johnny Magic and WESH 2 News anchor Summer Knowles will share African American literature in poetry, story and song.
Black History Month Proclamation Presentation, city of Orlando
(Feb. 6, 2 p.m. — City Council Chamber, second floor of Orlando City Hall)
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the city commissioners will join the Black History Month Planning Committee in the reading of the official proclamation recognizing February as Black History Month in the city of Orlando.
Black History Month Signature Celebration Event
(Feb. 8, 6-8:30 p.m. — West Lounge, Camping World Stadium)
A celebration of the contributions and positive influence of Black Americans in the Central Florida community.
Hot Topics: Black Resistance
(Feb. 8, 11:30 a.m. — Winter Park Events Center)
Panelists from the Central Florida-Dorothy Turner Johnson branch will focus on how African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression to advocate for a self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond. The event is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Orange County and the Association for The Study of African American Life and History. The League’s Hot Topics luncheons feature speakers and panelists discussing the issues of concern to Central Floridians. Tickets are $30 for League members and $37 for others. Click here to register. If you can't be there in person, the event will be streamed live on the Orange County League’s Facebook page and also available on the League’s YouTube channel.
Hold Fast to Dreams: Celebrating Black History in Oakland
(Opening reception Feb. 9, 5-7 p.m. — Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center)
This is an art and history exhibition that looks into Oakland's African American heritage, starting with the workforce of Oakland as a major economic hub after the Civil War with industries of citrus, lumber and turpentine. A jazz performance by LeNard Rutledge and Friends will be part of the opening reception. The exhibit, which will be open through March 17, also highlights African American leaders past and present in Oakland and includes a digital presentation on Oakland's African American Cemetery, which was established in 1882 and contains historically significant grave markers of emancipated persons. Featured artists include Fritz-Lee Saint Paulin, Ileana Miquilena, Cameron Bims, Mike Goodge, Michael Luzzi, Constance Sartor, Anne Fanelli, Dave Minichiello, Lori Warren, Joe Warren, Jambvant Ramoutar, Laura Serdiuk, Ileana Miquilena, Cheryl McLean, Maho Shing, Michael Volpicelli, Bianca Booz, Ronda Richley, and Kathleen Bell. The center is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the first Saturdays of the month.
Home School Days on the Harlem Renaissance
(Feb. 10, 1-3 p.m. — Orange County Regional History Center)
The program will focus on the Black cultural movement that influenced art, music and literature globally in the 1920s and '30s.
Reading Through History
(Feb. 16, 6-7:30 p.m. — Orange County Regional History Center)
The program will focus on the novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Eatonville's Zora Neale Hurston. Participants are invited to share their experiences of reading the book, their questions and key takeaways.
Celebrating Black Arts & Culture
(Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. — Orange County Regional History Center)
The program will include living history presentations, readings by members of the youth empowerment group Page 15 and readings by Central Florida historian and poet Valada Flewellyn.
What's Up Downtown Parramore Historic Bus Trolley Tour
(Feb. 23, 9:15-10:30 a.m. — Wells'Built Museum of African American History and Culture)
Fair Housing Fair
(Feb. 25, noon-4 p.m. — Primrose Center)
The City of Orlando's Office of Human Relations presents a HUD-sponsored fair housing fair with the theme Fair Housing is Black History.
African American Contributions
(Feb. 6, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Mary Sue Rich Community Center in Ocala)
This program will focus on recognizing African American women in history and feature music, spoken word, dance performances and a presentation by keynote speaker Mr. Darren Williams from Duval County Public Schools. This event is free and open to the public, and no registration is required. Light refreshments will be served.
Black History Month Proclamation
(Feb. 6, 1:30 p.m. — Osceola Board of County Commissioners meeting)
A Black history proclamation will be presented to Ann Jones and others from the community.
Also, the Lloyd Burton Jr. Award will be presented to Dr. R. LeWayne Johnson, a retired military officer and Bronze Star recipient, for his dedication to ensuring that veterans have access to assistance.
Honor for first Black graduate
(Feb. 20, 8:30 a.m. — Osceola High School)
The Osceola Class of 1966, the Osceola County NAACP and Osceola High School Black Alliance will dedicate a plaque for alumnus Charles Martin. At the start of 1965-66 school year, Martin was among the first Black students who voluntarily integrated Osceola public schools. He was the first and only African American to graduate from Osceola High School in 1966.
Some Black History Month Facts...
Did you know:
- The celebration of Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian, scholar, educator and publisher. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
- As of 2020, the Black or African American population alone in the U.S. is 46.9 million.
- Often referred to as "The Black National Anthem," the song Lift Every Voice and Sing was originally hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader and Jacksonville, Fla. native James Weldon Johnson in 1900. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed music for the lyrics. The song was first performed at the once-segregated Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
- Eatonville, Florida is the oldest black-incorporated municipality in the United States. Incorporated in 1887, it is the first town successfully established by African American freedmen.
- In 1738, when more than 100 Africans had arrived in Florida, the Spanish established the fort and town of Fort Mose (pronounced “Moh-say”) in St. Augustine’s northernmost border, the first legally sanctioned free Black settlement in what is now the United States.
- Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs was the first African American to serve on the Florida Cabinet when he was chosen as Secretary of State in 1868 by Gov. Harrison Reed. As superintendent of public instruction in 1873, he established the state’s first public school system.
- The Historic Harlem Academy School was was the first public school built for African American children in Tampa. Known as 'The Mother of African American Schools,' the school was located at Harrison and Morgan Streets in what is now known as downtown Tampa.
- The Florida Sentinel Bulletin has been serving the Tampa community since 1945 and is the only African American publication in Florida that prints twice weekly and owns all its own printing equipment.