Celebrate Black History, Arts, and Community in Illinois

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Illinois Humanities

Read Time 4 minutes
February 1, 2024

This month, we are invited to reflect and celebrate the rich histories of African Americans in the United States. Particularly, this year, organizations around the country are uniting their celebrations to uplift African Americans in the Arts and reflect on how indelibly Black artists have helped to shape our culture. Around Illinois, our partners and friends are presenting events and other opportunities to honor Black History Month, and we invite you to join us in celebrating Black history and Black futures, this month, and year-round. 

Attend a Road Scholar program 

Our Road Scholars Speakers travel across Illinois to bring art, culture, history, and contemporary social issues to life. Many of our scholars present on subjects of African American history and contemporary life, and there are multiple opportunities to see a Road Scholar present live near you this month. View a selection of upcoming Road Scholar below, and find more around the state on our events calendar. 

More Than a Color: the Marginalization of African Beauty Through History, Presented by Karen Anderson 
February 5, 7:00 p.m. at the Elmhurst Public Library in Elmhurst, IL 

The Black Chicago Renaissance, Presented by Dr. Amira Millicent Davis 
February 17, 1:00 p.m. at the Westchester Public Library in Westchester, IL 

Pre-civil War Quilts: Secret Codes to Freedom on the Underground Railroad, Presented by Connie Martin 
February 22, 6:30 p.m. at the La Grange Area Historical Society in La Grange, IL 

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Host a Road Scholar 

Many of our Road Scholars are still available to present in your town. Get to know available speakers and invite them to present at your local library, community center, historical society, or other local hubs. 

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    Dr. Amira Millicent Davis 

    Dr. Amira Millicent Davis presents educational and artistic performances about the Black Chicago Renaissance and Black motherhood using African percussions, drums, storytelling, and song. 

  • Antwoinette Ayers by Antwoinette Ayers

    Antwoinette Ayers 

    Antwoinette Ayers shares her voice of purpose to help those who need a mindset shift and inspiration. 

  • 1619 Ted Williams III 1619 program

    Ted Williams, III 

    Actor and educator Ted Williams, III presents a passionate solo performance about African American history, from the beginning of American slavery to the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Era, and modern justice movements. 

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    Mary Frances 

    Educator Mary Frances shares her passion for African American history with a presentation about untold African American stories. 

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    Caroline Kisiel 

    Educator Caroline Kisiel considers it an honor to help illuminate the forgotten yet important history of slavery, indentured servitude, and race-based legislation in our state, as well as the important period when Illinois was on the brink of becoming a slave state. 

Attend an event by our partners 

Through our Grants program, we support vibrant cultural work statewide and increase Illinoisans' access to the transformative power of the public humanities. Check out these events hosted by grantee partners in February.

Printmaking from the Archive: Ben Blount and Dino Robinson in Conversation 

February 4 | 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. | Evanston, IL 

Sixty Inches From Center hosts a studio tour and conversation with artist Ben Blount and archivist Dino Robinson about their work with the collection of Shorefront Legacy Center, which contains historic materials and relics from Black communities in Chicago’s suburban North Shore. Ben's new series of posters references archival materials from mid-century Black social clubs, and Dino will have some of the materials on hand for visitors to see. 

Learn More

Arist Ben Blount Portraits by Ryan Edmund Thiel

Artist Ben Blount (Photo by Ryan Edmund Thiel)

Black Business Expo 2024 

February 10 | 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. | Carbondale Civic Center, Carbondale, IL 

The Black Chamber of Commerce of Southern Illinois is hosting their third annual Black Business Expo to share the opportunity to shop with local Black-owned businesses, network, collaborate, and strengthen the local economy. The expo will be open at the Carbondale Civic Center beginning at 10:00 a.m. Registration is not required. 


Dreamland Park and Amos Duncan Presentation  

February 17 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. | Lincoln Library, Springfield, IL 

Mary Frances will present an event about Amos Duncan, African American creator of Dreamland Park, a popular gathering space and entertainment and sports center for African Americans during Jim Crow segregation in Springfield.  

Learn More


The Gathering 2024 - Racial Harmony Student Awards Ceremony  

February 25 | 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. | First United Presbyterian Church, Belleville, IL 

Each year, Racial Harmony honors area K-12 students who have promoted goodwill and respect and sought peaceful ways to resolve differences in their schools, homes, and communities. This year's theme is "Kindness Creating a Better World." Student awardees, their families, and their educators are invited to The Gathering to celebrate. Students are recognized by our organization in our souvenir journal and with a certificate, an engraved medallion, and a gift, in addition to also being recognized by local and state legislators during the ceremony.  

Learn More

Know of other events happening around the state? Want to share an artist, media, or resource that resonates with you? Send them to us at communications@ilhumanities.org or tag us on social media @ILHumanities