Black History Month 2021: How you can mark the celebration

During the month of February, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will publish a daily feature highlighting African American contributions to our state and nation. Go to www.ajc.com/news/martin-luther-king-jr/ for more subscriber exclusives on people, places, organizations like the Negro National League, that have changed the world and to see videos and listen to Spotify playlists on featured African American pioneers. (Edits by Tyson Horne and Ryon Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com rhorne@ajc.com)

For years, Black History Month have been celebrated in Atlanta, but things will be different in 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

While parades and festivals have typically been ways to mark the annual observance, alternative methods to commemorate each event will have to happen this year.

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If you’re in search of ways to enjoy the events in an atypical time, here are some options below.

It’s no secret that Black history runs deep in Atlanta. Hop’N Go Tours, which is Black-owned, has several tours that explore the history of the city through food and sights, but the Day Tour is going to be the easiest on the wallet. For $125, you can visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Madam CJ Walker Museum and the Sweet Auburn Historic District, to name a few.

Atlanta from the Ashes: Downtown History Tour

A one-hour guided tour offers a look into the history of Woodruff Park and the downtown area. Offered on the first and third Thursday of every month, this free tour informs guests about the history of the area — including the civil rights movement — and the buildings that once stood in there. RSVPs are required and attendees must wear face masks and remain socially distant from guests outside their party.

Things to do

Flowering Forest – a Tree Tribute

Freedom Park Conservancy and Trees Atlanta and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for a tree-planting session in honor of the late Rep. John Lewis. Taking place in Freedom Park from Feb. 19-21, the final day of which would have been the congressman’s 81st birthday, volunteers can choose to participate on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and plant over 300 blooming trees, flowering shrubs and fields of daffodils. Register here.

DeKalb History Center’s 13th Annual Black History Month program

The DeKalb History Center’s Black History Month program is going virtual this year with a live panel discussion about the genealogy of African Americans in Atlanta and DeKalb County. “Growing in Power and Promise” will include interactive breakout sessions and costs between $10-$15 to join via Zoom.

“David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History” and “David Driskell: Prints”

Explore the works of David Driskell, whose career spanned several decades as he became the leading authority on America’s history of Black art, in two exhibitions: one at High Museum of Art and the other at September Gray Fine Art Gallery.

Emory University - Discussion: Black Men in White Coats

All faculty, staff and learners are welcome to attend this Feb. 24 discussion co-hosted by the Emory School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine. Professors from Emory, Morehouse and Oregon Health & Science University will be on a panel to talk about the documentary, which focuses on the “systemic barriers preventing black men from becoming medical doctors and the consequences on society at large.” Register here.

ExploreFreedom Park to honor John Lewis with 300 blooming trees

Books to read

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

Robert Jones Jr.’s debut novel is historical fiction set on a Deep South plantation and focused on the forbidden union between two enslaved young men.

Elegy for Mary Turner by Rachel Marie-Crane Williams

Rachel Marie-Crane Williams’ book is a hauntingly illustrated look at lynching and racial violence.

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Kindred by Octavia Butler

A woman living in Los Angeles in 1976 is transported to a plantation in Civil War-era Maryland.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

How the mass incarceration of Black people has become today’s version of Jim Crow.

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Movies to watch

Many streaming services have compiled collections of films focusing on the Black experience in wake of the racial unrest that erupted across the nation last summer.

Netflix has the “Black Lives Matter” collection, Amazon Prime has the “Black voices” genre and Hulu has “Black Stories.” Each of these collections offer a wide variety of films. Some focus on history such as “Detroit” or “I Am Not Your Negro” while others tell stories focused on Black people such as “Soul Food.” The streaming platforms also offer films from Black creators such as the John Singleton-directed “Poetic Justice” or Tyler Perry’s “A Fall from Grace.”

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Must-hear speeches

While many are familiar with speeches such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” there are other speeches you can hear to help round out your knowledge of Black history.

Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union”

Former President Barack Obama gave this speech in 2008 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Mary McLeod Bethune’s “What Does American Democracy Mean to Me?”

The educator deemed “First Lady of the Struggle” gave this speech on the NBC radio show “America’s Town Meeting of the Air” in 1939.

Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”

The abolitionist delivered this address on July 5, 1852 after the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York invited him to speak on the Fourth of July.

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Music to listen to

Music streaming services have compiled playlists to soundtrack your Black History Month.

Amazon Music offers playlists featuring Beyoncé, a mix of hip-hop, classic soul and funk by groups such as Whodini and Zapp. Meanwhile, Tidal has a Black History Month playlist that includes Childish Gambino, Black Thought and Killer Mike featuring 2 Chainz to name a few. Apple Music’s playlist recognizing the celebration is also eclectic, including over seven hours of tunes from The Wailers, Janet Jackson and OutKast among others. Spotify’s Black History Is Now hub includes a collection of playlists called Phenomenal Black Music.

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