Friday is the start of Black History Month, and numerous events will be occurring throughout the area to honor the achievements by black Americans and the role they played in U.S. history.
For those who need a brief history lesson, the celebration started in 1926 as Black History Week, the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month. Since then, every U.S. president has designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history. Canada also celebrates in February, while in the U.K. it’s honored in October.
But back to the Charleston area. Here are some local events happening this first week of Black History Month:
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens will be hosting events each Saturday during Black History Month, with the award-winning slave cabin project, “From Slavery to Freedom,” serving as the backdrop for historians, artisans, genealogists and storytellers.
The four former slave dwellings that make up the project were occupied from 1850 into the late 20th century. In 2008, the cabins were restored to represent different periods from slavery to Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement.
Each Saturday throughout the month, one of the cabins will be featured during the celebration titled “From Slavery to Freedom: A Testament of Time.”
From 10 a.m.-3 p.m., activities will include foodways and craft demonstrations, storytellers, children activities, a specialized cabin tour, live music and a walk through Magnolia’s African-American cemetery, which holds the remains of black families who cultivated Magnolia’s gardens.
The lectures and concurrent demonstrations will cost $8 for adults in addition to the $15 general garden admission. Children under 6 may attend for free.
This Saturday, the 1850s cabin will be featured to discuss slavery.
The featured speaker at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. will be Dr. John Michael Vlach of George Washington University. He will present his work on plantation architecture. Concurrent demonstrators will include brickmaking by Rodney Prioleau, master mason at Fort Sumter National Monument, and provisioning and the slave garden by Heather Welch, Magnolia’s foodways historian.
For information on the Black History Month schedule, call 571-126 or go to www.magnoliaplantation.com.
Another place that will be holding events throughout the month is The Citadel, with its programs honoring the Emancipation Proclamation’s 150th anniversary.
With a program titled “From Emancipation to Inauguration and Beyond,” The Citadel will take a look at black history in the years following the Civil War to the election of the country’s first black president.
All events are free and open to the public.
Saturday will see the annual Black History Month Bazaar 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Buyer Auditorium in Mark Clark Hall.
The bazaar will feature music by Urban Roots, exhibits by the Tut-Tut Kemetic Group and the Sankofa African-American Museum on Wheels, a seminar on heirs’ property by the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, food and more.
On Tuesday, the PBS documentary “Slavery by Another Name” will be aired at 6:15 p.m. in the Copeland Auditorium in Grimsley Hall. Based on the research of author Douglas Blackmon, the “documentary recounts how in the years following the Civil War, insidious new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, keeping hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in bondage, trapping them in a brutal system that would persist until the onset of World War II.”
For information on these events and on the additional events that will take place throughout the month, go to www.citadel.edu/root/black-history-13.
The CSO Spiritual Ensemble, a 35-member vocal group that focuses on traditional spirituals, will celebrate its fifth anniversary and honor Black History Month on Saturday.
The performance titled “No Trouble at the River: The Perilous Story of the Underground Railroad” will include spirituals and other songs that “helped express hope for deliverance from their sorrows.” The program will include songs such as “No Trouble at the River,” “Pie Jesu,” an ode to those who lost their lives running for freedom, “Deep River” and “Keep Your Lamps,” among others. The songs will be accompanied by historical footnotes from Dr. Karen A. Chandler about the history of the freedom movement.
Tickets for the 5 p.m. show are $20 for adults, $10 for students with a valid ID. The performance will be held at Centenary United Methodist Church, 60 Wentworth St.
To purchase tickets, call 866-811-4111 or go to www.csospiritual.com.