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Celebrating Black History Month in Newport News

From a film festival and theater production to a planetarium show and special exhibitions, Newport News has a number of ways to celebrate the African-American experience to commemorate Black History Month in February!

The Mariners’ Museum will celebrate the month with a series of workshops and lectures each Saturday. The events will explore African and African-American maritime history and culture through storytelling, special performances, lectures, and guided tours of the museum. On Feb. 4, Mariners’ Museum staff will give guided tours that focus on the influence of Africans and African Americans in the maritime world. The following Saturday, Feb. 11, master storyteller Mendel Denise Williams will perform a multimedia performance called “Children of Blue Waters,” which tells the story of a ship that brought the first wave of Caribbean immigrants to England. On Feb. 18, historian Carson Hudson will explore the history of banjo music, which arrived in Virginia from Africa in the hands of the enslaved, in a performance dubbed “I Come From Old Virginny.” The last Saturday of the month, Feb. 25, will bring more guided tours of the museum, along with African storytelling, called “Anansi and Other African Folktales,” which will include the creation of handmade musical instruments. 

At the Virginia Living Museum, patrons will be able to see the night skies from more than 100 years ago in Follow the Drinking Gourd, a FREE planetarium show that explains how the stars of the northern sky led slaves to freedom during the era of the Underground Railroad. This popular show, based on a children’s book with the same name, starts at 4:30 p.m. every Saturday in February. 

Join The Newsome House Museum & Cultural Center Feb. 4 when they hold a “History to Life Celebration” to honor the legacy and tradition of Carver High School, an all-black high school that opened in Newport News in 1949 and closed in 1971 as part of the city’s desegregation plan. The celebration will include an exhibition and alumni sharing memories of their experience attending the school. For those unfamiliar with The Newsome House, it is the former home of J. Thomas Newsome, a respected attorney, journalist and civic leader in Newport News who prospered as part of the post-Civil War South’s new urban African-American middle class. Beginning Feb. 18, the Newsome House will also be the site of the “Anderson Johnson Art & Soul Exhibition Series.” Anderson Johnson (1915-1998) was a self-taught artist and musician and a preacher who established a house of worship in the mid 1980s in his Southeast Community home. To attract people to his mission, Johnson adorned the exterior and interior of his house with his paintings. His portraits included U.S. presidents, women, Biblical figures, celebrities, animals and angels – most painted on cardboard and other scrap materials. In the 1990s, Johnson’s home was razed for an urban renewal project, but prior to demolition, his murals were saved and are now on display in a permanent exhibition at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center.

Weekly in February, see stars of the silver screen during the Virginia War Museum’s annual African-American History Month Film Fest. This year, enjoy The Tuskegee Airmen (Feb. 4); The Bicycle Corps: America’s Black Army on Wheels (Feb. 11); Glory (Feb. 18) and Men of Honor (Feb. 25). All movies will begin at 1 p.m. and are included with museum admission.

The Ella Fitzgerald Theater at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center will be the setting Feb. 9-11, Feb. 16-18, and Feb. 23-25 for a community theater production of Sister Act, the comedy made famous by Whoopi Goldberg.

We hope you enjoy this celebration of Black History month in Newport News! For more information, click on the website links provided or visit www.newport-news.org and click on “Complete & Searchable Listing” under “Events & Festivals.”