February is recognized across the country as Black History Month. The month of February was chosen so it could coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Lincoln was the 16th U.S. president and paved the way for the abolition of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. Douglas was an escaped slave turned activist and author, and a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement to end slavery.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford proclaimed February to be Black History Month, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement helping elevate Negro History Week to national prominence.
Children often want to know why Black History Month is important and what they can do to celebrate it. We encourage parents to explain the importance of the month, and also consider learning about it throughout the year.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis works hard to celebrate Black history all year long. Here are 10 opportunities to learn about Black men, women and children at the museum:
- Ruby Bridges helped change our country when she became one of the first Black students to integrate the all-white school system in New Orleans when she was 6 years old. Ruby is one of four children featured in our Power of Children exhibition.
- In August 2020, 18 local Black artists created a piece of public art on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis. Stories from Our Community: The Art of Protest focuses on the creation — and subsequent vandalism — of their work and how it has impacted our community.
- Nichelle Nichols is known throughout the world for playing the character Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. She was also a television pioneer: She was the first Black woman to be featured on television who was not stereotyped as a servant or a maid. A replica of Lieutenant Uhura’s famous costumes is on display in the Schaefer Planetarium and Space Object Theater inside Beyond Spaceship Earth.
- Willy T. Ribbs was the first Black person to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The car he drove in the 1993 Indy 500 is on display in The World of Sport in the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience®.
- Stephen Burrows was one of the first Black designers to come to prominence in the fashion world. His bright creations with lettuce edging were part of the New York disco scene in the 1970s. You can see one of his jersey knit maxi dresses — and other pop cultural artifacts — in American POP.
- The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience not only encourages a lifelong love of sport in children of all ages and abilities, but it also shines the light on Black sports legends who made history in Indiana such as Tamika Catchings, Reggie Miller, Wilma Rudolf, Reggie Wayne, DeMarcus Beasley and Oscar Robertson, to name a few.
- The Ava DuVernay Barbie® Doll (Mattel 2015), Misty Copeland Barbie® Doll (Mattel 2016), Gabby Douglas Barbie® Doll (Mattel 2017), Rosa Parks Barbie® Inspiring Women Doll (Mattel 2019) are all on display in American Pop.
- Meet visiting Black artist Ashley Nora at a Galactic Inspirations Workshop. Visitors will be able to observe the many beautiful components of space and create their own artwork using deep colors of oil pastels, drawing inspiration from what’s beyond Earth.
- Dr. Christine Darden, a Black NASA scientist, is featured in the Flight Adventures exhibition. Dr. Darden devoted much of her 40-year career in aerodynamics at NASA to researching supersonic flight and sonic booms. She is one of the researchers featured in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (2016).
- Evan Cooper and Israel Solomon are two Black paleo artists whose artworks are on display in the Paleo Art Lab of the new Dinosphere®.
We invite you to celebrate Black heritage and achievements in history, science, art and music through storytelling, special activities and performances featuring Alyssa Gaines, 2022 National Youth Poet Laureate and Indianapolis native, on the first Thursday in February. Admission is $6. Visit childrensmuseum.org to reserve your ticket today.