We sadly won’t be toasting a Cowboys Super Bowl victory this year, but February is still full of reasons to celebrate. The month especially offers an abundance of opportunities to celebrate black heritage and begin an ongoing conversation with your kiddos about the African-American experience. We’ve assembled the top kid-friendly ways — from touring historic homes to shimmying at some iconic dance performances — to commemorate black history and culture.
What is now known as Uptown was once the heart of North Dallas’ black community, settled by freed slaves in the 1850s. Remnants of this community once called Freedman’s Town are on display in the Facing The Rising Sun exhibit at the African American Museum of Dallas. The exhibit shows children what life was like through photographs, which include pictures of headstones from Freedman’s cemetery, which was excavated in 1989 and re-plotted between Lemmon Avenue and Hall Street, and video presentations. While there, explore the largest collection of African American folk and decorative art, including a quilt made by a 16-year-old slave girl in 1824. Interested in learning more? Visit AAM’s website on February 15 to explore the history division (to launch that day).
Cost: $10 per adult; $5 per child (ages 4-12); free for children 3 and under
When: Tuesday–Friday, 11am–5pm; Saturday 10am–5pm
Where: 3536 Grand Ave., Dallas, 214/565-9026
Help the Dallas Black Dance Theater mark 42 years of history-making movement during its Cultural Awareness series at Dee abd Charles Wyly Theatre, part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas. This month, the company premieres two works that honor two dynamic female musicians that are (in DBDT’s words), “Rooted in history. American Treasures. Sultry and Seductive.” Matthew Rushing, a director from the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, visits to stage his homage to the Queen of American Folk Music, Odetta Holmes, in ODETTA. Nationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Dianne McIntyre returns to her recurrent muse, Nina Simone, in the aptly-named Nina Simone Project. The show, which first premiered at DBDT in 2011, sets choreography to nine signature songs by the High Priestess of Soul.
Cost: Tickets start at $22
When: Feb. 15–17, Friday–Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 2:30pm
Where: Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St., Dallas, 214/880-0202
Celebrate the 117th birthday of Dallas native and civil rights activist Juanita J. Craft at her former home, now the Civil Rights House, on February 9. As you stroll through the South Dallas craftsman bungalow, you will have the chance to meet the team behind the reparations of the historic home (a pipe burst in the house last year, causing considerable damage) and learn more about its developments into a museum and civil rights education center. Guests will also get to honor the life and legacy of one of Texas’ most influential females. Craft helped desegregate both the University of Texas Law School and North Texas State University and organized 185 branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She also served as a Democratic Precinct Chair, a Dallas City Councilmember and was the first black woman in the state to be named a poll tax collector. Craft’s fight for civil rights eventually earned her Dallas’ highest civic honor, the Linz Award. Show the kids the picket signs made by children in Craft’s youth councils who advocated for voting rights and fought the Jim Crow laws. RSVP on Facebook for birthday party and book a 40-minute guided tour by appointment.
When: Friday, February 9, 9am–9pm
Where: 2618 Warren Ave., Dallas, 214/670-3687
The critically acclaimed (and Oscar nominated!) superhero movie Black Panther will return for limited run in theaters this month. To ensure that everyone can enjoy the big screen experience, Disney will offer free screenings during the first week of February at participating cinemas nationwide. (Are you dancing in your chair right now, too?) The PG-13 fantasy and science fiction film celebrates African culture as well as emphasizes the power and beauty in women of color. Gather up the family to watch Nakia, Erik Killmonger, Okoye, W’Kabi, Shuri and, of course, Black Panther take the screen once again. Wakanda forever!
When: February 1–7
Where: Participating AMC Theaters (AMC Parks 18 in Arlington; AMC NorthPark 15 in Dallas; AMC Valley View 16 in Dallas; AMC Stonebriar Mall 24 in Frisco; AMC Firewheel Town Center 18 in Garland; AMC Grapevine Mills 30 in Grapevine; AMC Irving Mall 14 in Irving; AMC Mesquite 30 in Mesquite)
Deep Ellum was once the rich and bustling epicenter of 1920s African-American culture in Dallas. At one of its busiest intersections, at Elm Street and Good Latimer Expressway, sits a historic building dating back to 1916. The Beaux Arts building, designed by renowned African-American architect William Sidney Pittman, first served as the Grand Lodge of the Colored Knights of Pythias (known informally as the fraternal order’s temple) and went on to house black physicians, dentists and artists through the early 20th century before becoming the Union Bankers Building. In recent years, developers have worked on resurrecting the rundown gray building to turn it into a boutique hotel and part of a wider redevelopment of Deep Ellum. Before heading to family favorites Serious Pizza or Glazed Donut Works (both just down the road from the Temple), download the free Pegasus Urban Trails app to take a walking tour of the neighborhood that was one of Dallas’ original freedman colonies. You and the kiddos will learn about the Temple, the district’s musical roots and how Deep Ellum got its name. Before you go, check out the American Institute of Architect’s coverage of the Pythias Temple through the decades.
Where: 2551 Elm St., Dallas, 214/821-3290
With the help of Encore Park, First Presbyterian Church and a growing list of donors, historic 508 Park Ave. in downtown Dallas will be restored to the arts and culture hub it was in the 1930s. A replica of the recording studio where legends like African-American blues musician Robert Johnson recorded is underway (with era-appropriate equipment to boot), but a sculpture wall, community garden and amphitheater are now open to the public. Celebrate the city’s cultural heritage with the kids by studying the scenes on Encore Park’s 40-foot-long bronze sculpture wall titled “The Birth of a City,” by artists Christy Coltrin and Brad Oldham. Download the free guide so that you can point out the wall’s notable figures (such as Johnson playing his guitar) and moments from local history.
Cost: Free; donations accepted.
Where: 508 Park Ave., Dallas, 214/906-0865
Rally your art critics in training and head to the Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum for the 6th Annual Juried Art Show, a celebration of Black History Month in tandem with the Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society (which Rolla herself founded in 1974). Throughout the month, explore the African-American experience through paintings and sculptures created by professional and student artists alike. The show’s reception is scheduled for February 7, but you can explore the exhibit or schedule a guided tour (by appointment) every Tuesday and Thursday.
When: Feb. 1–28, Tuesday and Thursday 10am–3pm
Where: 1020 E. Humbolt St., Fort Worth, 817/332-6049
Learn about the groundbreaking musical talents who graduated from I.M. Terrell High School, the first black school in Fort Worth. In the second installment of a community history workshop series called Preserving Our Past, the City of Fort Worth and The Center for Texas Studies at TCU will host musician Tom Reynolds. On February 2nd, Reynolds will present his preservation efforts at the Fort Worth Public Library-Central in Tandy Lecture Hall.
When: Feb. 2, 10:30am-12pm
Where: 500 W. 3rd, Fort Worth
Students in 8-12 grades can participate in the 11th annual Dallas Mavericks Black History Month Challenge when they submit an essay on the topic, “Advancing ‘The Dream’: How We Can Take Collective Actions to Create Meaningful Change in Our Communities.” The five winners will be announced in late February, and will receive team prizes, recognition during the halftime of the February 27th Mavs vs. Pacers game and a 3-day/2-night trip to Atlanta, GA to visit black history landmarks. (Round trip travel and expenses provided for each winner plus an adult chaperone).
When: January 21-February 22
Jubliee Theatre has been a hub for black creatives in Fort Worth since 1981. Each season, the theatre company (including new artistic director, D. Wambui Richardson) explores the varied facets of the African American experience through diverse seasonal programming. Throughout February, you can snag seats for the play Obama-ology, a story of a black college graduate who joins Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and overcomes hate and hardship along the way.
When: January 25–February 24; show times are 7:30pm Thursday, 8pm Friday-Saturday, 3pm Saturday-Sunday
Where: 506 Main Street, Fort Worth, 817/338-4411
The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL) is featuring the 15th Annual Weekend Festival of Black Dance Rhythm and Soul of a People. During this time, guests have the opportunity to attend a performance starring DC-based Kankouran West African Dance Company and Dallas’ Black Academy Dance Ensemble highlighting contemporary, modern and jazz Black Dance. More information here.
When: February 22–23 at 8pm (public performances)
Where: Naomi Bruton Main Stage, 1309 Canton St., Dallas, 214/743-2440
This month, the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame highlights cowboys of color at the museum’s new home near the Stockyards in Cowtown. If you plan to attend the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, be sure to swing by Booth 916 in the Exhibit Hall to learn more about the western heritage of diversity.
Cost: $10 per adult, $8 per child age 6+, free for children 5 and under
When: Museum hours: Wednesday–Friday noon–4pm, Saturday noon-5pm
Where: National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame, 2029 N. Main St., Fort Worth, 817/534-8801
In 1912, William Sidney Pittman, African-American architect and son-in-law of author and educator Booker T. Washington, began designing Fort Worth’s oldest and largest African Methodist Episcopal Church. Completed in 1914, the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church served as a safe haven during the Jim Crow era. The Gothic revival structure continues to offer Sunday worship and Bible studies in its 100-foot auditorium that seats 1,350. Visit on a sunny day when the sunlight shines through the elaborate stained-glass windows and see the bell tower which suffered extensive damage from a lightning strike in 2011.
When: Call to reserve a time to visit.
Where: Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 116 Elm St., Fort Worth
For a picture of the local African-American experience from emancipation to the civil rights movement, visit the Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center in Irving. Walk through the Masonic Lodge and the J.O. Davis House to learn about the Bear Creek neighborhood (an African-American community during the era of segregation) through animatronic figures and everyday artifacts such as kitchen items, lamps and laundry boards. Then tour the restored Green House, once home to community leader Sam Green, to let the kids get a taste of life in the 1920s.
When: Call/email to inquire. The museum is traditionally open to the public on the second Saturday of every month.
Where: 3925 Jackson St., Irving, 972/721-2501
See the medicine cases of Dr. Edwin B. Moten, Denton’s first black doctor, and dive into the stories of other Denton County African-Americans at the African American Museum, housed in the Quakertown House at the Denton County Historical Park. Docents give you and your little historians a guided tour of the 1904 house, which was originally part of the African-American neighborhood of Quakertown, a thriving community that was forced to relocate in the 1920s to make way for a city park. Working to restore more of the neighborhood buildings to their original location, the Denton County Office of History and Culture acquired the Woods House, currently located at 1015 Hill St. in Denton, in recent years.
When: Museum open Wednesday–Saturday 10am–2pm
Where: 317 West Mulberry St., Denton, 940/349-2865