Illinoisans come together every February to recognize Black History Month with events, special exhibits, concerts and shows. With this mix of in-person and virtual events and activities, you can immerse yourself in African American culture and education in every region of the state!
Art Institute of Chicago
Curated by the chair of Arts of Africa, Constantine Petridis, The Language of Beauty in African Art is a collection exploration into the notion of how African art has been evaluated and valued over the years. This beautiful exhibit showcases more than 250 sculptures from dozens of distinct cultures across the African continent. It is an exploration that seeks to decolonize the Western aesthetic standards long placed on these objects and to elevate the local indigenous perspectives of the works’ makers and communities. Open now. Learn more here.
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
On the heels of Black History month, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is debuting a new exhibit which allows visitors to explore film, photographs and more from travelers and "Green Book" business owners—all dedicated to African American travel in the Jim Crow era. Open January 29 - April 23. Learn more here.
African American Heritage Water Trail
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!
Museum of Science & Industry
Explore the artistic achievements and contributions of African Americans throughout history in a brand new and completely immersive experience – the 2023 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition. Featuring the works of over 50 black artists, the Juried Art Exhibit delves deep into the various paintings, fine art prints, sculpture, ceramics, photography and more that have defined and shaped Africana culture throughout the years. Exhibit now open. Learn more here.
DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center
Dedicated to the study and conversation of African American history, culture and art, DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center will be virtually showing on Equiano Stories International Watch Day (Feb 16) a film that tells the story of writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, with a contemporary twist: Instagram stories. Visitors can also attend an educational session on the History of Black Photography on February 8th including a study of the Torture Letters. Learn more here.
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! Pay a visit to the Africa Hall 30th Anniversary Celebration or join the effort to raise awareness regarding missing Black women and girls in Still Searching - Chicago's Missing Women and Girls. Open now. Learn more here.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Garfield Park Conservatory is offering reoccurring drop-in activities in Horticulture Hall that celebrate Black culture and show how Black folks have used plants throughout history. These programs are drop in and no preregistration is required. Open on February 4 and 18. Learn more.
Come celebrate and learn about Black history through a free, interactive tour with the conservatory's Urban Roots teen docent program! Many of the plants growing at the Conservatory have deep significance to Black history, and the ways we think about horticulture has been shaped by so many Black scientists, artists, and thinkers. To honor and celebrate these plants, people, and legacies, Urban Roots teens have woven together stories and information on botany, ecology, horticulture, Black culture and Black history. Open on February 22 and 26. Learn more.
Obama Kissing Rock
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.
Black History Month Concert Series 2023
Uniting Voice Chicago is continuing its commitment to performance education and visibility of authentic African music with a concert celebration that includes music and freedom movements from Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Trinidad and more. 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. 28 at 11am. Learn more here.
American Writers Museum
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.
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.
Near the City
Eleanor Murkey Community Center Ribbon Cutting & Reception
This reception honoring Eleanor Murkey is part of the grand opening of the Lakeshore Campus Student Center and is the kickoff to the College of Lake County's celebration of Black History Month, which includes a variety of events. At the Ribbon Cutting, you'll be treated to musical performances by Mark Cosey & Friends, and refreshments will be served. RSVP requested. February 3rd at 1PM. Learn more here.
Rockford Career Day
Join the Rockford Public Library for Black History Career Day and hear from a group of African American presenters speak about their dreams, careers, and past educational journey. Open February 4.
Round Lake Black History Month
Round Lake encourages visitors to join its 24th Annual Black History Celebration where you'll see product showcases from more than 35 minority-owned businesses and brands like Ma's Best, Goode Foods, and more. Additionally, there will be live music, kid activities, giveaways and more. Learn more here.
Waukegan Public Library
Live & Virtual Events
For Black History month, the Waukegan Public Library is offering a variety of exciting activities including virtual storytimes for children, Trivia Nights, graphic novel discussions, and special Around the World lectures which will offer a glimpse into the many geological and cultural diversities of the African continent. Learn more here.
33rd Annual Black History Program - Zion
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. 25 at 11AM. Learn more here.
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.
Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum
Located near The Lincoln Tomb is the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum—a great destination for residents and visitors who'd like to educate themselves about the African American experience through research, collections and preservation. Open now. Learn more here.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Live & Virtual
Throughout February, 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 that is available to the public and on February 7, visitors can virtually join the ALPLM’s Education and Research departments as they read and discuss African American literature. Learn more here.
Museum of the Grand Prairie: Black History Month
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." They commemorate the achievements of African American men and women in Champaign County. Available now. Learn more here.
DIY Kids - Black History Bingo
Kids can learn about famous people, places, and events in Black history by making their own bingo card and playing with a vibrant group at the Champaign Public Library's event series. Champaign. Feb. 1 at 4PM. Learn more here.
McLean County Museum of History
All avid readers are welcome to join the Museum and Bloomington Public Library for the first installment of the History Reads Book Club for 2023. This hybrid discussion will be held in the Governor Fifer Courtroom at the Museum and online via Zoom to discuss "The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America" by Ethan Michaeli. February 7 at 7PM. Learn more here.
Geneseo Historical Museum
Watch a narrated video highlighting the Quad Cities area and its connection to the Underground Railroad. The museum features actual hiding holes for runaway slaves dating back to 1855. Geneseo. Watch here.