Although we can’t attend events marking Black history in person, there are many virtual events to attend, books to read, and shows to watch to learn about Black history during the entire month of February.
Chicago has a full range of free virtual events, including concerts and discussions, a cooking demonstration series featuring local Black chefs, film screenings, a retrospective of noted Black artists, and a livestreamed concert, “Preserving and Persevering,” by the Chicago Children’s Choir at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, on the choir’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. See the full list of events, many of them free, with instructions on how to sign up at this website.
There are many recommendations of books for young readers that teach more about the Black experience in America. Here’s a list of 25 recommendations, some new and some seasoned favorites, with books about lesser-known women in Black history and a picture book biography of gymnast Simone Biles. One interesting book is the Overground Railroad, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome. The beautifully illustrated book tells one child’s story of the Great Migration, when 6 million Blacks in rural Southern United States moved to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West, starting during the early 1900s. Another recommended book, told in lyrical rhythm, is The Roots of Rap by Carole Boston Weatherford. Young readers will learn about how rap evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing, which formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today.
The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History has a virtual festival all month long with the theme “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.” Most events are free, and the events include a program on “Foodways, Culture, and Traditions in the African American Family,” a panel discussion on “How African American Families Have Been Portrayed in the Media,” and music performed by choirs from HBCUs — Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Each event is available on the group’s YouTube channel.
These lessons are aimed at teachers but are available to all. The National Education Association has a full list of Black History Month lessons and resources for every grade level.
PBS will air and stream several shows all month to highlight different people, events, and cultural institutions to celebrate the black experience, including a special on the 400-year role of the Black church and a biography on the classical singer Marian Anderson. They will air locally on the Chicago PBS station, WTTW. The entire list can be found at this link.