Black History Month Events in Illinois

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Illinoisans come together every February to recognize Black History Month with events, special exhibits, concerts and shows. With this mix of virtual and in-person events and activities, you can immerse yourself in African American culture and education in every region of the state! 

Chicago Area

Art Institute of Chicago

Virtual Collection 

Peruse the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection by African American artists to discover your next favorite piece. Maybe it's by Eldzier Cortor, whose family relocated to Chicago as part of the Great Migration, or James Van Der Zee, a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance best known for his photographs of Black New Yorkers. Open now. Learn more here. 

Black-Owned Brewery Residency at Haymarket

For the month of February (and extending to March 13), four Illinois breweries with at least partial Black ownership will be participating in a residency at Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood. During this time, visitors will have access to eight beers created by the following four breweries:

  • Funkytown Brewery
  • Moor’s Brewing
  • Black Horizon Brewing
  • Turner Haus Brewery

While Chicago is home to a booming craft beer community, Black-owned breweries have been underrepresented in the industry.  This is an excellent opportunity to support Black brewery owners, hear their stories, and spread the word about the great things they're doing.

African American Heritage Water Trail

Activity

The Calumet River, a seemingly overlooked space located on the city’s South Side, played an influential role in helping hundreds of freedom seekers through the Underground Railroad. Now, Chicago-based nature conservancy Openlands is hoping to highlight the river's little-known past and its role in helping to shape 180 years of African American history through the African American Heritage Water Trail. It's something to keep in mind once the weather warms up with this guide and brochure

Field Museum

Virtual Events

Celebrate the stories and the contributions of Black scientists and theorists through virtual offerings from Chicago's Field Museum, ranging from professional seminars by Black STEM speakers to a recommended reading list for kids! Open now. Learn more here. 

Chicago Children’s Choir Black History Month Virtual Concert

Virtual Event

Black History Month Virtual Concert: Remembering, Reclaiming, Reconnecting recognizes that one of the most underappreciated contributions to American music is the African sound and spirit. CCC’s 2022 Black History Month concert explores how the power of Black music has been a cultural key in both preserving African traditions in America and in helping millions persevere in the face of racial injustice. 

Join the group for a dynamic virtual educational program and performance exploring music’s role for Black Americans in maintaining a sense of community in the United States. Opens Feb. 26 at 6PM. Learn more here. 

American Writers Museum

Virtual Exhibit

Explore the later life of writer and orator Frederick Douglass through timelines, videos, digitized artifacts, and more in an original virtual exhibit at the American Writers Museum. Open now. Learn more here.

Obama Kissing Rock

Activity

Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago, this monument sits at the site of former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama's first kiss. Learn more here.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Virtual Program

Learn about Black history through the conservatory’s plant collection in a virtual program that highlights African American scientists and innovators, Black women in STEM fields, plants as heritage symbols and artistic inspiration, and connections to the Civil Rights movement. Open now. Learn more here. 

Black-owned Restaurants in Chicago

Dine In or Takeout

While you're in the city, grab a bite to eat at a Black-owned restaurant. Here's a list of places across Chicago to help get you started. 

Round Lake Virtual Black History Month

Virtual Event

Celebrate Black History Month with the family during this virtual event by the Round Lake Area Public Library, which will showcase must-have stories by Black authors for your bookshelves at home. Feb. 5 at 10AM. Learn more here.  

An Unfinished Journey: African American Music in its Pivotal Decades

Live Event

Local musician Clarence Goodman will present live "An Unfinished Journey: African American Music in Its Pivotal Decades" at Waukegan Public Library, which reflects on the history and art of Black music. Feb. 22 at 5:30PM. Learn more here. 

32nd Annual Black History Program

Live Event

Gather with the family in Zion for an evening filled with poetry, music, singing, dancing, and guest speakers - plus dinner after the program. Zion. Feb. 26 at 11AM. Learn more here. 

Central Illinois

Route History

Special Exhibit

The Springfield museum Route History is home to an interactive outdoor exhibit highlighting African Americans who have made a lasting impact on the community, including tributes to former local business owners. Open by appointment. Learn more here.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum 

All February long, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will commemorate the triumphs of African Americans through a series of events, including a discussion with Marissa Jo Cerrar, creator of ABC's historical drama miniseries “Women of the Movement” and the debut of a new theatrical presentation on Robert Smalls—an integral Black figure during the Civil War. 

The museum has also digitized a rare interview with track-and-field legend Jesse Owens and will make all six hours of audio available to the public for the first time. In 1961, Owens was interviewed for hours by an employee of the Illinois State Historical Library, which is now part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Learn more here.

Old State Capitol Stories of Freedom

Special Exhibit

The Illinois Old State Capitol served as the head of operations for all state government from 1840-1876. Walk through the famed halls where former President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous "House Divided" speech in 1858, and learn about how the 13th amendment—which outlawed slavery— was ratified (making Illinois the first state to do so). History was made again in 2007, when former President Barack Obama announced his presidential campaign here in SpringfieldOpen now. Learn more here. 

Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum

Museum

Located near The Lincoln Tomb is the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum—a great destination for residents and visitors to central Illinois who'd like to educate themselves about the African American experience through research, collections, and preservation. Open now. Learn more here. 

McLean County Museum of History: BNBHP

Live Event

Join the museum's staff for an exploration of the founding of the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project (BNBHP) and the ways that local Black history, both preserved and in the making, continues to inform and inspire programming for learners of all ages through "Presence, Pride, & Passion." Bloomington. Feb. 24 at 6PM. Learn more here.

Museum of the Grand Prairie: Black History Month

Virtual Exhibit

Check out two of the Museum of the Grand Prairie's online exhibits: "This Legacy is Yours: Celebrating the Lasting Contributions of African American Women" and "This Legacy is Yours Too: Celebrating the Lasting Contributions of African American Men" - both commemorating the achievements of African American men and women in Champaign County. Mahomet. Open now.

Table Talk Book Club: A Black Women's History of the United States

Virtual Event

Join the Champaign Public Library's virtual monthly get-togethers for an interactive discussion about books by contemporary African American writers, such as "A Black Women's History of the United States. Champaign. Feb. 8 at 6:30PMLearn more here.

Cover-to-Cover Book Discussion: A Promised Land

Live Event

At this in-person event, discuss former President Barack Obama's "A Promised Land" at the Champaign Public Library. Champaign. Feb. 10 at 1:30PM. Learn more here.

Geneseo Historical Museum

Video

Watch a narrated video highlighting the Quad Cities Area connection to the Underground Railroad. The museum features actual hiding holes for runaway slaves built in 1855. Geneseo. Watch here.