February is Black History Month, and there are many different ways to celebrate the rich culture and amazing contributions of African Americans in Colorado and the United States. From entertainment to museums and galleries, there are so many different things to do that you’ll need a few weekends just to experience them all. Be sure to take the whole family as you explore these great places to learn about African American history, spark up some conversation and don’t be afraid to do some research to find the answers. Here are five great places to get you started.
Lamont Chorale & The Spirituals Project
Gates Concert Hall
Newman Center for the Performing Arts
2344 E. Iliff Ave.
Denver, CO 80208
Date: Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
In honor of Black History Month, the Lamont School of Music will be presenting an evening of African American Spirituals for a two-hour concert that is not to be missed. The Spirituals Project comes from a DU Professor that believed it was crucial to preserve the rich traditions of African-American spirituals, and it is the perfect way to celebrate Black History Month. Bring the family and spark a discussion about the music and its meaning.
Black American West Museum and Heritage Center
3091 California St.
Denver, CO 80205
Since 1971, the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center has been preserving, collecting and presenting the contributions of African Americans in the Old West. Founded by Paul Stewart, the museum is home to many diverse exhibits including a cowboy exhibit complete with photos and items from black cowboys as well as a full homestead exhibit about the town of Dearfield, Colorado. Dearfield was a “black pioneer town” and was a bustling city until the Depression hit. Today, the town is a ghost town, though its memory lives on through this exhibit. Check out the military exhibits or visit the hall of education to see an old western movie or a short film about the town of Dearfield. It is a great history lesson and the perfect way to celebrate the month.
Related: Top Historical Sites in Denver
Stiles African American Heritage Center
2607 Glenarm Place
Denver, CO 80205
The Stiles African American Heritage Center is a smaller and more intimate cultural center that offers guided tours, artifacts, memorabilia and cultural exhibits all devoted to lessons in African American history. Call ahead and you can even catch lectures and reenactments or just experience a guided tour through the collection. Located right in the heart of the historic Five Points district, it was founded by Grace Stiles in 1992 to celebrate African American history 365 days a year.
Barney Ford House Museum
111 Washington Ave.
Breckenridge, CO 80424
Barney Ford was an escaped slave who, through hard work and ingenuity, ended up becoming a very prominent entrepreneur and a civil rights pioneer in Denver, Breckenridge and other areas of Colorado. Born into slavery in 1822, Barney Ford eventually escaped to Chicago via the Underground Railroad. Dreams of the Gold Rush lured him to Breckenridge but he lost his claim there. He found success in Denver as a barber and built the highly successful Inter Ocean Hotel at 16th and Blake in Denver. He returned to Breckenridge where he built another successful business that included a restaurant and barbershop, even building a home there.
Ford was deeply involved in politics and civil rights in Colorado. He is honored with his photo on a stained glass window in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol building. You can visit and tour his home in Breckenridge, restored to its original beauty.
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Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library
2401 Welton St.
Denver, CO 80205
The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is the only library of its kind from Detroit to Oakland and it offers a rich selection of educational resources for Denver. The library is dedicated to the enhancement of history, literature, religion, art, music and politics of African Americans in Colorado and highlights the historic Five Points neighborhood in Denver as well as African American leadership in Colorado though several exhibits. Be sure to check out the third level of the building with the Western Legacies Museum, showcasing the contributions of African Americans who settled in Colorado and the West.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.