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Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in Harrisburg

Published: Jan 29, 2024
Raffia Mural

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments, contributions and history of Black people in the United States.

February was designated as the national African American History Month by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The purpose of the month is to honor those individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of African Americans in our country.

In addition to celebrating their successes, Black History Month also serves as an opportunity for us to learn more about this important part of history. Below you’ll find five ways in which you can learn about and celebrate the contributions of African Americans in Harrisburg and beyond.

1. Visit Historic Monuments, Museums and Exhibits

A Gathering at the Crossroads Statue
A Gathering at the Crossroads: For Such a Time as This

Visit the First African American Monument on PA State Capitol Grounds, “A Gathering at the Crossroads: For Such a Time as This,” which was officially completed in 2020. The site of the monument is significant, located where Harrisburg’s “Old Eighth Ward” was, until the early 20th Century, a thriving multicultural neighborhood.

The monument commemorates two anniversaries of two major milestones in the quest for equal rights in America: The 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution granting Black men the right to vote (February 3); and 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment which granted voting rights to women (August 26).

For more information regarding this project, visit digitalharrisburg.com/commonwealth/

DTN - HS - The National Civil War Museum
Civil War Museum

The National Civil War Museum is one of the largest museums in the world dedicated solely to the American Civil war. The Museum seeks to tell the whole story of this most troubled chapter in American history, while focusing on the issues, the people and the lives that were affected. The causes and ramifications of this conflict that divided a Nation are investigated; both Northern and Southern viewpoints are presented; and military as well as civilian perspectives are highlighted.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm and Sundays 12pm - 5pm. 

Bonus: Community Free Day on February 17th!

Learn more at nationalcivilwarmuseum.org/

Trailblazers Exhibit at Capitol
“Trailblazers” Exhibit at the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex

Pennsylvania’s history is full of remarkable figures who not only helped to shape the future of the Commonwealth but also the future of the nation. Discover some of these inspiring stories when you browse the "Trailblazers: Notable African Americans in Pennsylvania History" exhibit located in the East Wing Rotunda at the Pennsylvania State Capitol.  The exhibit includes 23 portraits in total, with eight rotating into the featured public display each year. Plan your visit to the capitol here.

Leon Laing Photo Exhibit
New this year: Hip-Hop Photography Exhibit at City Hall

Visit the MLK City Government Center at 10 N 2nd St, to see local photojournalist, Leon Laing's hip-hop artists and other celebrities exhibit. It's on display from now through the end of March and you can see if for free! 

Nyeusi Gallery BHM
Photo by Nyeusi Gallery

2. Support Black Businesses

Harrisburg is a city that celebrates its cultural diversity, and the Black-Owned businesses within it are an important part of that. From restaurants and bars to arts and crafts, these businesses offer something for everyone in Harrisburg. This month and every month let’s support these amazing Black-Owned businesses in Harrisburg and discover how they contribute to the city's vibrant culture.

Click here for a list of Black-owned businesses in the Harrisburg area.

Follow along on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter as we highlight some of the #BlackOwendHBG businesses in Harrisburg.

3. Attend Events

Black History Gamut

The Jackson Rooming House: Music's Resting Place (Feb 10 - 25)

What starts as a search for the perfect burger and a lost little brother leads a group of young friends on a journey of musical exploration and personal self-discovery. Through encounters with several mysterious strangers, they are led to reflect upon the legacy of Black musicians & the Harrisburg hospitality network that gave them safe lodging. For tickets and more information, click here.

American Son by Narcisse Theatre Company (Feb 2 - 18)

Set in a Florida police station in the dead of night, American Son follows a mother and her estranged husband as they anxiously await news about their missing teenage son who “has been involved in an incident.” The play takes place against the backdrop of racial tensions and rifts that continue to shape the American landscape. As the parents grapple with their own biases, fears, and assumptions, the tension escalates, leading to intense conversations that expose the harsh realities faced by Black families in today’s society. The show runs from Feb 2-18. For tickets and more information, click here.

Midtown Scholar Dr Keisha

Wake up America: An Evening with Dr. Keisha Blain, Rush Richardson and Taifa Smith Butler (Feb 15)

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore is welcoming renowned scholars Dr. Keisha Blain, Ruth Richardson, and Taifa Smith Butler for a conversation and signing on Blain’s new anthology, Wake Up America: Black Women on the Future of Democracy. The authors will be in conversation with Dickinson College Professor Say Burgin. This event is free and open to the public. Find out more here.

Black Makers Fair (Feb 17)

Celebrate Black culture and innovation at the Black Makers Fair on February 17th at the McCormick Riverfront Library from 10 am to 4 pm! This free event will feature a variety of Black makers, artists, and vendors. Learn about Black history and culture, support Black-owned businesses, and connect with others in our community. Learn more

Are you an artist or maker and want to get involved? Fill out the vendor form at https://forms.gle/BKnBnHSQXhqDT1aU7.

To see what else is happening in Harrisburg, visit our calendar of events. 

Raffia Mural
4. Visit a Mural: Raffia

A steering committee of Black Harrisburg community leaders dedicated to creating a mural celebrating Black culture guided the creation of "Raffia." They selected talented Black Harrisburg artist, Bryan “King Prolific” Hickman, after he served as an apprentice on Sprocket Mural Works’ Mulberry Street bridge murals. He describes “Raffia” as “Afro-inspired,” depicting a Black woman who’s a friend and Harrisburg resident. The mural incorporates themes of African American strength, appreciation for youth, and the importance of education. Studies show that murals that depict themes of diversity within diverse neighborhoods (such as Harrisburg’s) lead to increased community pride and civic engagement. 

The mural is located at 928 James Street. Learn more about "Raffia" and other important murals here.

5. Contribute to Black Organizations and Charities

There are many ways to support your community, including donating money to a charity, movement or group. These monetary contributions can help fund programs and pay for legal costs and salaries that keep an organization afloat.

Here are some non-profit organizations advancing Black rights and equal justice:

Copy of Syeda headshot
Author: Syeda Tayyeba

Director of Marketing & Communications, ExploreHBG