9 ways to celebrate Black History Month in Boston and beyond

From museum exhibits to virtual book discussions to walking tours.

The African Meeting House, owned and operated by the Museum of Afro-American History, is one stop on the Black Heritage Trail. Handout Photo

Black History Month celebrations are taking place across the city this month, with plenty of virtual programming due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“In Boston, we know our greatest strength is our diversity, and now, more than ever, we must continue our dedication to celebrating communities throughout Boston,” said Mayor Walsh, in a statement. “Black History Month is an opportunity to honor our city’s Black communities and champion leaders who’ve played a critical role in strengthening our city’s commitment to racial justice.”

Ahead, discover nine ways you can celebrate Black history this month in Boston and beyond.

Learn about Boston’s jazz history at the Museum of African American History

The Museum of African American History’s new exhibit, “Jazz Scene in Boston: Telling the Local Story,” details Boston’s rich jazz history. “Through photographs, handbills and posters set in a club-like setting, this colorful exhibit provides a broad view of the Boston scene from the 1940s to the 1980s,” wrote the museum on its website. The museum, named among 15 unmissable Black history museums across America by Fodor’s Travel, includes the African Meeting House, the oldest Black church building in the nation, and the adjacent Abiel Smith School, the oldest building in the country created for the education of Black children. Due to COVID-19, guest must reserve timed tickets 24 hours in advance online. The museum also has a Nantucket location.

Join virtual author events at the Boston Public Library

You can join book talks with authors all month long through virtual events hosted by the Boston Public Library, including an event with Kerri K. Greenidge, author of “Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter” on Feb. 16; Jennifer Smith Turner, author of “Child Bride,” on Feb. 18; and Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of  “The Three Mothers: How the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin shaped a nation” on Feb. 23. Those looking for even more reading material can check out the library’s “Black is…” book list, featuring recent books about the Black experience.

Follow the Black Heritage Trail

This 1.6 mile trail through Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood links more than 15 pre-Civil War structures and sites that depict Boston’s Black history. More than half the city’s 2,000 Black people lived on Beacon Hill during the 19th century, according to the city. Sites along the trail include the African Meeting House, which served as a church, school, and gathering place for Black people in the 19th century, Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, an Underground Railroad safe house, and the Museum of African American History’s Abiel Smith School and African American Meeting house. (View a map of the trail.) Other trails full of Black history include the African American Heritage Trail at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and the New Bedford Black History Trail in New Bedford.

Learn about Black history on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket

“[T]he story of the African-American people of Martha’s Vineyard has two common themes: spirituality and maritime expertise,” according to the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard, which offers 31 stops that celebrate the island’s Black history. The trail includes Shearer Cottage, the first Black-owned guest house on Martha’s Vineyard, the home of Black writer Dorothy West, and the Gospel Tabernacle, a former church for Black people during the mid 20th century. The Nantucket Black Heritage Trail features 10 historic sites, such as the Shelburne House, where Frederick Douglass stayed during his last visit to the island in 1885, and the former secretary of the local women’s anti-slavery society Anna Gardner’s home.

View 20th century works by Black artists at the MFA

The Museum of Fine Arts, which reopened Feb. 3, is offering its first teen-curated exhibition, “Black Histories, Black Futures.” The exhibit features about 50 paintings and works on paper created by Black artists from the 20th century, including painters with connections to Boston, such as Loïs Mailou Jones and Allan Rohan Crite. The works are mostly from the MFA’s collection, but also includes loans from the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists (NCAAA). The exhibit, curated by young scholars as part of a the MFA’s new partnership with local youth empowerment organizations, is on display through June 20.


Savoy: Leon & Willa Mae (1989), Richard Yarde. Watercolor on paper. The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection. © Richard Yarde 1989.

Watch films about the Black experience with the Black History Month Film Festival

You can watch virtual screenings of old and new films this month during the Black History Month Film Festival, courtesy of The Boston Globe. Films include “CodeSwitching,” featuring personal stories from three generations of students in a voluntary desegregation program and “Together — Six Feet Apart,” where a group of dancers and poets from Boston’s inner city share their stories. The festival also includes virtual discussions with filmmakers and film subjects throughout the month. Check out the full schedule of events.

Celebrate local Black musicians at a free virtual concert

Berklee College of Music will present a virtual performance celebrating Black musicians Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on its YouTube channel during “We Will Rise Summit: Black Artists and the Soul of Our Music.” Faculty members Tia Fuller, Ruka White, and Val Jeanty “will draw on inspiration from gospel, soul, jazz, and dance, showcasing the talents of Berklee’s Black student community,” according to the school’s website. The program will include student speakers, words, dance, and music.

Take the Boston Black Restaurant Challenge

Are you looking to support Black-owned restaurants in the area? This challenge encourages diners to order food from at least one Black-owned restaurant per week throughout the month of February in honor of Black History Month. The Boston Black Restaurant Challenge, which began in 2018, is focusing on takeout and delivery this year due to the pandemic.

Support a Black-owned business

Whether you are looking for real estate, clothing, baked goods, beauty products, or the services of a barbershop, law firm, print shop, or property management company, there are many Black-owned businesses in Boston and beyond to choose from.


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