African American history as well as culture is a significant part of the identity of Washington DC. There are many ways to observe Black History Month. Below are some of the top ways to engage with the culture and community of the District.
Stand on Lincoln Memorial’s Steps
The National Mall site is steeped in significant African American history, comprising the March on Washington in August 1963 as well as the Million Man March in October 1995. This is where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, to civil rights marchers gathered around the memorial, in 1963. The date of the speech, Dr. King’s visionary statement, and his name are etched on the steps.
Pay Homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. by Visiting the Namesake Memorial
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located on a crescent-shaped spot in the West Potomac Park, features a sculpture of the civil rights leader carved into the “Stone of Hope”. The thirty-foot statue stands past a couple of other granite pieces called the “Mountain of Despair”. Both the “Mountain of Despair” and the “Stone of Hope” are references to Dr. King’s speech, wherein he publicly demanded the civil and economic rights as well as the end to racism.
Visit the Shaw Neighborhood
Walk through the Shaw neighborhood in DC that was home to well-known African American people. At the front of the Howard Theater, there is a statue of the jazz artist Duke Ellington. In addition, explore the “Walk of Fame”, which starts near the headquarters of the United Negro College Fund and extends for a couple of blocks, up to the Howard Theater’s façade.
The neighborhood was named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who was 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment’s commander. He commanded the US soldiers of color in the Civil War. This area is nicknamed “The Heart of Chocolate City”, since escaped slaves settled here, and ultimately began businesses that cater to its large African American population. While exploring Shaw’s history during your Washington DC tour, check out the neighborhood’s awesome dining scene, too.
Enjoy Special Activities throughout February at the US Capitol Visitor Center
The Capitol Visitor Center remains open during the partial US government shutdown and features an array of the Black History Month programs. The “Family Program” highlights Congressional Gold Medals awarded to African American leaders, artists and athletes. The “Talking Points” highlights the Fifteenth Amendment as well as early congressional African American leaders.