February is Black History Month. It's an important month for many reasons, not least of which is reflecting on foundational contributions, cultural and social alike, black people, American and abroad, have made to human history.
You can do so by enjoying scoops of ice cream, traffic lights, super soaker water guns, open heart surgery (okay, you don't enjoy open heart surgery, but staying alive is cool), and light bulbs. None of these would exist without black Americans.
Or, you could spend some time exploring New York City which, luckily for us, is rich and bursting with black American heritage.
There are plenty of events being put on in the city during February to celebrate Black History month, but sometimes you just want to tour a historical hotspot without a planned event or agenda.
Or, sometimes you want to visit museums with expertly preserved and curated exhibits with historical significance. Read on to find out which historical hotspots you've got to visit to celebrate black American culture this month in NYC.
1. Louis Armstrong House Museum (34-56 107th Street - Queens)
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This National Historic Landmark is devoted to collecting, arranging, preserving, and displaying artifacts that relate to the life of Louis Armstrong, an incredible musician widely known as one of the founding fathers of jazz.
If you visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum during Black History Month you'll get to go home a limited-edition scrapbook charting Louis Armstrong's rise to fame in Chicago in the 1920s.
The museum's gathered furniture, appliances, paintings, letters, photographs, and thousands of Louis Armstrong's recordings. Plus, of course, Louis Armstrong actually lived in this house with his wife Lucille, from 1943 until the end of their lives.
If you love jazz and you love Louie Armstrong, visiting this museum is the perfect way to pay homage to this game-changing musician.
2. Central Park's Arsenal (830 Fifth Avenue)
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This exhibit, presented by NYC Parks' Ebony Society, is called The Migration, and it features works by more than 20 artists on the Great Migration and its impact.
The Great Migration was a period that lasted from the beginning of World War I and lasted until the 1960s, during which time, around 6 million African Americans moved north and west to escape racial segregation and discrimination in the south.
This exhibition will be on display until February 24th, and it offers a rare opportunity to take in the artwork of 22 artists' take on the seismic societal demographic shift during the Great Migration. Plus, it's free, so that's cool too.
3. Graffiti Wall of Fame in East Harlem (East 106th Street and Park Avenue)
Located at the Jackie Robinson Playground, the Graffiti Wall of Fame in East Harlem is a street art hotspot, mecca, heaven, paradise, or any other way you want to put it. In a word, it's incredible, and its artwork changes every six months or so. Plus, it's always free.
The Graffiti Wall of Fame is located within the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex, which houses four schools.
The art wall is always changing on all sides. It was founded in 1980 by a community activist, and was given to the community permanently to hone their artistry in a safe environment.
It's visible from the sidewalk and generally open to the public when the schools aren't in session. Check it out, why don't you?
4. Studio Museum in Harlem (144 West 125th Street)
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This museum is the stunning nexus of art created by artists of African descent. It's also the home to plenty of artwork inspired and influenced by black culture.
It was founded in 1968 by a diverse group of artists, activists, and philanthropists who envisioned a museum that displayed artwork and also supported artists and art education.
The Studio Museum in Harem is internationally renowned for its role in promoting the artwork created by artists of African descent. It's supported more than one hundred emerging artists of African or Latino descent.
The museum's prominent collection includes almost two thousand paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, pastels, photographs and more.
They've also got a ton of really incredible Romare Bearden paintings in their permanent collection, as well as so many more exhibits by incredible artists. Go check it out.,
5. African Burial Ground (290 Broadway)
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This sacred space in Manhattan was preserved in 1991 after it was discovered to have been a burial ground for both free and enslaved Africans from the 1690s until 1794.
They've got plenty of performances, productions, screenings, and workshops planned to celebrate African American History Month at the African Burial Ground in February, so you should definitely get there and check those out.
Otherwise, just come bask in the history memorialized at this important historical landmark. The outdoor memorial is closed for the season, but the indoor visitor center is very much open and kicking.
6. Weeksville Heritage Center (158 Buffalo Avenue - Brooklyn)
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The Weeksville Heritage Center is Brooklyn's largest African-American cultural institution. It's a multidisciplinary museum that's preserved the history of the 19th century African American community of Weeksville-- one of America's first free black communities.
They use visual and performing arts, history, ecology, and the built environment to display this unique history to viewers through a contemporary lens.
It's an important center of preservation of the past, and an important tool to arm modern day individuals with the knowledge of their ancestors' contribution to their present. You should come check it out, it's pretty amazing.
7. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (515 Malcolm X Blvd)
robertgarland Eddie Glaude and Imani Perry
This branch of the New York Public Library system is comprised of three connected buildings: The Schomburg Building, the Langston Hughes Building, and the Landmark Building.
The Schomburg Center is heralded as one of the leading institutions to focus exclusively on African-American, African Diaspora, and African experiences.
The museum has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life in America and worldwide for nearly a century.
If you visit, you can check out their arts and artifacts, their rare books, moving images, recorded sounds, and photographs and prints. Plus, they're holding a ton of amazing lectures and talks for Black History Month, which you can check out here.
8. National Jazz Museum in Harlem (58 West 129th Street)
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This museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Harlem's dynamic jazz history. Plus, they just opened at a snazzy new location on February 1st, so even if you've been before, odds are you haven't been to the new location.
It's worth your visit. They wow audiences through live jazz performances, exhibitions, and jazz artifacts.
They've got audio samples from plenty of famous jazz musicians, from Billie Holiday to Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Lester Young.
They'll also host talks and events for Black History Month, as well as stunning performances and thought provoking discussions. If you love music and you care about history, you need to check it out.[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]