Penny Lane Celebrates Black History Month

February 6, 2024

Welcome to Black History Month 2024

We are so excited to celebrate Black History throughout the month of February.  We have sprinkled in activities and acknowledgements to further remind us of the many contributions made by Black and African American community to the United States.  Black History is simply American history.  You cannot have one without the other.  Black History Month has grown beyond the confines in America as others recognize the significance of these contributors.  That said Black History has received recognition from other governments around the world. More recently Black History Month is being observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom.  

You might have heard that Black history is more than the month of February and I can’t argue with that.  The contributions of Black and African American citizens occur all year long and we take note of their impact on our society, but with February as the designated celebration, we at Penny Lane would like to support the celebration all while acknowledging the contributions of this community each and every day.

To kick off the month, I would like to share a few resources with you.  Below you will find enlightening books and moving films and soul stirring art depicting the Black and African American experience in the United States.

Black History Month Films:


Marshall is a 2017 American biographical legal drama film directed by Reginald Hudlin and written by Michael and Jacob Koskoff. It stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, and focuses on one of the first cases of his career, the State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell.

Streaming On: Amazon Prime

Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is a 2021 American biographical crime drama film directed and produced by Shaka King. The film is about the betrayal of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late-1960s Chicago.

Streaming On: Max

The Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of an actual groundbreaking unit, the first African-American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Corps, that fought in World War II. The film was directed by Robert Markowitz and stars Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Lithgow, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.

Streaming On: Amazon Prime

Black History Month Books:

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

"A moving, vital testament to one of slavery's 'many thousand gone' who retained his humanity in the bowels of degradation." — Saturday Review

Born a free man in New York State in 1808, Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Washington, DC, in 1841. He spent the next 12 harrowing years of his life as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation. During this time, he was frequently abused and often afraid for his life. After regaining his freedom in 1853, Northup decided to publish this gripping autobiographical account of his captivity.

Amazon Link: 12 Years a Slave

Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriott

America’s backstory is a whitewashed mythology implanted in our collective memory. It is the story of the pilgrims on the Mayflower building a new nation. It is George Washington’s cherry tree and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin. It is the fantastic tale of slaves that spontaneously teleported themselves here with nothing but strong backs and negro spirituals. It is a sugarcoated legend based on an almost true story. In Black AF History, Michael Harriot presents a more accurate version of American history. Combining unapologetically provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot removes the white sugarcoating from the American story, placing Black people squarely at the center.

Amazon Link: Black AF History

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives by Dana Canedy, Darcy Eveleigh, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns

New York Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh made an unwitting discovery when she found dozens of never-before-published photographs from Black history in the crowded bins of the Times archives in 2016. She and three colleagues; Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns, began exploring the often-untold stories behind the images and chronicling them in a series entitled “Unpublished Black History” that was later published by the newspaper.  Why were these striking photographs not published? Did the images not arrive in time to make the deadline? Were they pushed aside by the biases of editors, whether intentional or unintentional? Unseen dives deep into the Times’s archives to showcase this rare collection of photographs and stories for the very first time.

Amazon Link: Unseen

Black History Month Art:

As we honor Black History Month let us take a moment to enjoy the power of art and the African American community who have created works that have the power to move us into action, emote feeling and stirs the soul.  I am so excited to share a beautiful compilation of Black artists and their works.
Black artists have influenced American culture. Artists such as Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907), Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), Horace Pippin (1888-1946), Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) Alma Thomas (1891-1978) Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), and Gerald Williams (born 1941) created works at transitional times in history. Art reflects the time from which the artist lived. These artists collectively covered themes such as abolitionism, the great war, WWII, the Civil Rights movement and being black in the modern world. The below link will immerse you into the world of beautiful black historical art and includes works from many of the above artists.

Art should never be separated from the time that it was made. It is a visual narrative of that time. Contemporary art provides a narrative of our time.

Kehinde Wiley’s art is astonishing. He plays with ideas of power, patterns and historical motifs juxtaposed by the gaze of African American males. He recently added portraiture of females. Kehinde also challenges ideas related to class, painting individuals in non-formal attire. The attached power point includes many of his works, all are stunning.

Kara Walker creates intricate silhouettes, some large enough to fill rooms. At first glance, her work may seem playful. Walker’s silhouettes reference paper dolls of centuries past created life sized. The silhouettes reveal graphic depictions of the violence and abuse that are part of the legacy of slavery, racism, and colonialism.

Kerry James Marshall is an American artist that enjoys large scale painting of African American life and history. He is active on Instagram.

Shawn Michael Warren is narrative painter. He utilizes realism in exploration of historical figures bringing their stories to life.

-Janet Lazar & Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers