8 Black History Month Exhibits & Plays To See

Throughout February, New Jersey celebrates and pays tribute to the African American community through historic exhibits and performances.

black history month

Portraits Joe Louis 3 and Muhammad Ali on loan from artist Van Armstrong displayed at the Newark Public Library’s Black History Month exhibit. Courtesy of Maxim Ryazansky

Newark Public Library

Thru April 30: The exhibit “The Black Athlete in America: Protest, Activism and Inclusion” explores the role, status and history of the black athlete as an activist since the mid-19th century.  Lauded for their strength and dexterity, many black athletes have used their platform to call attention to injustice, unfairness, oppression and discrimination. Often, they have been  intimidated or threatened when they took a stand. A series of programs accompanies the exhibit throughout the month.
Mon, Fri & Sat, 9 am–5:30 pm; Tues–Thurs, 9 am–8:30 pm; free.

Black History Month

Children in Paterson. Courtesy of the Paterson Museum

Paterson Museum

Thru March 28: Timed with Black History Month, the exhibit, “Thus Shall They Upward, Onward Press: An Exploration of the History of African Americans in Paterson from 1600-Present” displays the accomplishments and daily life of some of Paterson’s African American citizens.
Mon–Sat, 9:30 am–4:30 pm; suggested donation, $2. Hannah Memorial Gallery.

negro leagues

Visitors use a tablet to colorize a black-and-white photo. Courtesy of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center

Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center

Thru June:Discover Greatness: An Illustrated History of Negro Leagues Baseball” is on loan to the museum in Little Falls from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibit, which features 90 photos, plus memorabilia, spans the history of the Negro Leagues, from the formation of the first league 100 years ago to the end of the leagues in the 1950s, following baseball’s integration.
Wed–Sun, noon–5 pm; $5–$10.

West Orange Arts Council member and collage artist Carol Jenkins’s photographic treasures. Courtesy of Deneise Smith

West Orange Arts Center

Feb 8–29: The West Orange Arts Council and the West Orange African Heritage Organization present “Sharing Our Stories,” an exhibit that pays homage to the African American cultural experience. Step back in time with this Black History Month display that includes photographs, memorabilia and artifacts. In preparation, curator Carol Black-Lemon offered a series of collage workshops to help artists and non-artists assemble their items into collage boards for the exhibit. Each work will be accompanied by an artist statement, story or poem.
Hours vary, free. Opening reception, Feb 15, 4–8 pm.

genesis festival of plays

Crossroads Theatre Company’s Genesis Festival of Plays

Feb 21-23: The Genesis Festival is a playwright laboratory experience that consists of three separate shows of stage readings for the audience to enjoy and critique. All plays speak to Crossroads’s mission, to bring the voices of the African Diaspora to life.
7:30 pm each night; free for members; $18 for non-members. NBPAC, New Brunswick. 

Black History Month

Brothers on Broadway

Feb 22: Baritone Keith Spencer pays tribute to Broadway’s African American leading men in this one-man celebration accompanied by the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey. Hear work from artists, such as Paul Robeson, Ben Vereen, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines and Brian Stokes Mitchell. The concert includes selections from shows including Porgy and Bess, Ragtime, Pippin, The Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton.
7:30 pm; $30-$65. Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, Trenton. 215-893-1999.

black history month

Till: A New Musical

Feb 27–March 8: In 1955 a 14 year old boy left Chicago to visit his relatives in Mississippi. He did not come back alive. This is his story. The American Theater Group presents a powerful new musical by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro about Emmett Till, whose murder in 1955 helped ignite the civil rights movement. The March 5 performance will be followed by a talk-back with Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr.—Till’s cousin and the last living witness to this event.
Times vary; $39. Church of St. Andrew & Holy Communion, South Orange.

black history month

Radio Golf

Feb 29–March 22: Close Black History Month with the 10th and final play from August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, directed by Brandon J. Dirden. Real estate developer Harmond Wilks is determined to become the first black mayor of Pittsburgh and revitalize the Hill District. A complication arises when he discovers that a house slated for demolition was acquired illegally.
Times vary; $28–$73. Two River Theater, Red Bank.

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