Charlotte has a long and distinguished history of African American accomplishments in many areas of civic life, from business and finance to government and religion. February is celebrated as Black History Month with many special events. The month ends with a week-long celebration of black culture as the CIAA Basketball Tournament takes over the town, February 26 to March 2, showcasing the teams of historically black colleges and universities, including Charlotte’s own Johnson C. Smith University, amid a wealth of parties, receptions, and step show competitions, as well as the free Fan Experience, held in the Charlotte Convention Center.
America I AM: The African American Imprint
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
551 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Price: $12 adults/$10 seniors, students, and military/$8 children (3-13)/ free ages two and under.
Hours: Through March 3
Extended through March 3, “America I AM: The African American Imprint” includes artifacts from 500 years of African American history, from the days of the Middle Passage slave trade to the inauguration of the first African American president of the United States. Beginning with items from the rich cultural history of Africa, a tour of the exhibit passes the Doors of No Return of a slave compound, through artifacts from the days of slavery, to the days of the Civil Rights Movement. Numerous historic objects are on display, including the key to the jail cell where Martin Luther King, Jr. was held in Birmingham. African American contributions to American culture are represented by a gallery of costumes worn by famous jazz divas, the robe worn by Muhammad Ali at the “Rumble in the Jungle,” Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls jersey and Prince’s guitar.
Price: Adults $25 in advance, $30 the week of the tour/ seniors (62+) $23 in advance, $28 week of tour/students (5-18) $21 in advance, $26 week of tour.
Hours: Sat, Feb. 9, 16, 23 – 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Held annually during Black History Month, this three-hour pilgrimage visits over 100 sites in and around Charlotte related to the city’s black heritage including Johnson C. Smith University, several historically black neighborhoods, a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., several surviving slave cemeteries, a slave church and a home that was bombed during the Civil Rights Movement. Queen City Tours also offers similar tours daily throughout the year, plus an Express Tour that visits the 50 most important sites. Hotel pick-up is available, and reservations are required for all tours. Not recommended for children under five years old.
Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
130 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Price: $20 and up
Hours: Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 – 7:30 p.m.
A smash hit on Broadway, this Tony Award-winning musical brings the music and life story of Fela Kuti to the stage. The creator of Afrobeat, a combination of jazz, funk, and African rhythms, Kuti was also a human rights activist in his native Nigeria, opposing that country’s corrupt dictatorship. Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones choreographed and directed this joyful evening of entertainment. The touring production includes actors from both the Broadway show and the sold-out London production at the Royal National Theatre.
Latta Plantation Underground Railroad Adventure
5225 Sample Road
Huntersville, NC 28078
Price: Free with regular admission
Hours: Sat, Feb. 23 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Located on the shores of Lake Norman, Latta Plantation re-creates agricultural life in the early 1800s, with heritage breeds of animals, a field of short staple cotton, a brick plantation house and outbuildings. History records that 34 slaves worked at Latta Place, and the Underground Railroad Adventure leads participants around the site, collecting things they would need for an escape to freedom, and learning about the lives of the people who lived here. Tours of the plantation house, offered Tuesday through Sunday, are included in the admission price; a self-guided tour is available for the grounds, gardens and outbuildings.
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Swing Band Series: Tia Fuller With The John Brown Big Band
McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square
345 N. College St.
Charlotte, NC 28202
Price: $29.50 – $39.50
Hours: Feb. 16 – 8 p.m.
Sponsored by the Jazz Diva Foundation, this concert series celebrates jazz, that uniquely American style of music that grew out of the black experience. John Brown, leader of the big band, is a bassist and an educator and current director of the Jazz Program at Duke University. Tia Fuller is an internationally recognized jazz saxophone player. She was a member of the all-girl band that toured with Beyonce during her recent world tour.
With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.