The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday May 29th

NC Museum of History honors African American legacy in the state

Next week marks the beginning of Black History Month, and the North Carolina Museum of History is holding its 17th Annual African American Cultural Celebration on Jan. 27 to kick it off. 

The event is organized by the museum in partnership with the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. It started as a small afternoon gathering 17 years ago and has grown every year since. 

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Emily Grant, the event coordinator of the initial celebration. “But then we had a huge public response. We thought we were really onto something and we were.” 

The celebration offers presentations and activities that reflect various parts of African-American culture from the arts to cooking to enterprise. This year they added a new sports and games category. 

“I think of this celebration as a family reunion, an exciting college seminar and a performing arts festival all put together,” said Michelle Lanier, executive director of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission. “It’s the only event that gives the visitor the opportunity to be fully immersed in African-American culture.” 

Linda Dallas, a local artist and professor at Saint Augustine’s University, attended the event in past years, but this will be her first time as a contributor. Dallas and other local artists created artwork that will be sold at the event to raise funds for a public art installation on the site of the St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh. 

The hospital, which closed in 1961, had a long history of caring for African-American patients. 

“It’s a beautiful building,” Dallas said. “But people walk by and have no idea of its history, so we are trying to solve that through art.” 

Although the cultural celebration covers all aspects of African-American culture, the main focus is on the history and culture of African-American communities in North Carolina. 

“A lot of times in African-American history, people might think of Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King Jr.,” Lanier said. “While those are phenomenal individuals, powerful African-American historical figures from both rural and urban areas in North Carolina have had a great effect on our state.” 

The African-American Cultural Celebration sparks a month of events at the North Carolina Museum of History that commemorate Black History Month. For the entirety of February, the museum will also have an exhibit showcasing the 1868 constitution, which was the first to recognize the newly freed citizens post-Civil War. 

“One thing that is unique about this event is that it is very dense,” Grant said. “There is a lot going on and no presentation repeats. We want people to come away hungry. It’s a great teaser event that we hope serves as a catalyst for people to come out to more.” 


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