Thursday, January 15, 2015



  • Rare Diaries of Civil War-Era African Americans
  • A Special Discussion with African American Historians
  • Other Events: Documentary Screenings, Children’s Programs and Museum Open House
  • All events to be held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, 830 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum presents thought-provoking events celebrating Black History Month spanning the Civil War and Antebellum periods through the Civil Rights Movement, to the present day. The capstone program is a special discussion of two Civil War-era diaries by free African Americans. Because diaries by African Americans from the Antebellum and Civil War periods are extremely rare, visitors will have a unique chance to hear about the everyday life of free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic region during that time.

Freedom’s Diaries: Diaries of Free African Americans from the Antebellum and Civil War Era
WHEN: Saturday, February 7, 1 PM

“Since there are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history, Davis's rendered extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class Aof resources,” writes publisher University of South Carolina press about Dr. Karsonya Whitehead’s Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis (published May 2014). The book uncovers the story of a woman in Philadelphia’s vibrant free black community through the prism of identity, race, and class. Dr. Whitehead is assistant professor of Communication, and African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland.

Henry Louis Gates writes, “'Today has been a memorable day. I thank God I have been here to see it.' So begins the pocket diaries of free black woman Emilie Davis of Philadelphia on the day of Emancipation at the midpoint of the Civil War. Her words also capture my feelings in seeing Davis's diaries published under the expert eye of Karsonya Wise Whitehead, whose scholarly annotations not only set the scene but reveal how this 'everyday' domestic-dressmaker's decision to record her thoughts at the critical hours of the African American journey was itself an emancipatory act.”

In addition, Dr. Myra Y. Armstead, Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies at Bard College, discusses Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America (published February 2012), which traces the life of an escaped slave from Maryland who became a master gardener and kept a diary for over three decades. Booklist;calls Freedom’s Gardener a “meticulously sourced and carefully reasoned portrait.”

Programming For, and By, Youth

The Griot’s Eye Youth Film and Culture Festival
WHEN: Saturday, February 14, at 12 PM

Griot’s Eye is an arts-based youth leadership and community-development program that equips urban youth with technical and cultural skills to produce compelling social media programs that address relevant issues in their lives.

WJZ-TV Black History Month Oratory Contest
WHEN: Sunday, February 15, at 12 PM

Twenty semi-finalists from high schools in Maryland present their memorized essays on selected quotes from African American historical and cultural figures. A panel of judges will select the top three winners who will receive cash prizes and other items from the event sponsors. The annual event is hosted by WJZ-TV.

African American Art: An Intro for Kids
WHEN: Saturday, February 21, at 3 PM

Explore African American art with teaching artist, Culture Queen. Families will see a short children’s video about African American artists, take a mini gallery tour and create their own artwork inspired by an artist. 

Open House
WHEN: February 28, 10 AM

The museum holds its annual open house with free admission to celebrate Black History Month. Families and friends are invited for a day full of interactive tours, activities and live entertainment. Sponsored by Verizon. ADMISSION: Free.

Documentary Films

Freedom Riders Screening with Post-Film Panel of Local Freedom Riders
WHEN: Sunday, January 25, 2 PM
(120 minutes)

From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. The so-called “Freedom Riders” were deliberately violating Jim Crow laws that upheld segregation. From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders features testimony from a fascinating cast of characters who were involved first-hand: the riders themselves, government officials, and journalists.

A post-film discussion follows with Freedom Riders Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Dion Diamond, and Janice Grant. In conjunction with the current exhibition Struggle: Portraits of Civil Rights and Black Power. Free. Sponsored by Created Equal America’s Civil Rights Struggle.

Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks
WHEN: Sunday, February 22, 2 PM
(90 minutes)

This documentary takes an intimate look at the life and career of Gordon Parks, a celebrated photographer, novelist, journalist, poet, musician, and filmmaker. The film stretches across two centuries as it traces his life and career from abject poverty in Kansas City, circa 1912, to his astonishing and unprecedented rise as a top photographer for Vogue, Life, and other magazines. The film also documents his later years as a filmmaker and composer up to 2006, the year of his death. Though Parks’ subject matter widely varied, his biggest claim to fame was his heart-stopping photographs of the Southern civil rights movement in the 1960s for Life magazine. Aside from footage and voice-overs of Parks himself, Half Past Autumn features Parks’ children and ex-wives, as well as celebrities and life-long friends Russell Simmons and Gloria Vanderbilt. In conjunction with the exhibition For Whom It Stands.

About the Reginald F. Lewis Museum

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is Baltimore's premier facility highlighting the history and accomplishments of African Americans with a special focus on Maryland's African American community. A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum is the East Coast's largest African American museum, occupying an 82,000 square-foot facility with ample permanent and special exhibition space, interactive learning environments, auditorium, resource center, oral history recording studio, museum shop, café, classrooms, meeting rooms, outside terrace and reception areas. The museum is located near Baltimore's Inner Harbor at the corner of Pratt and President Streets. The museum is also accessible on Baltimore's Charm City Circulator Orange and Green Routes. For more information, please call 443-263-1800 or visit