In its celebration of Black History Month, planners and organizers with the National Constitution Center have added a few wrinkles to their usual offering, including hosting a free admissions day at the end of the month.
Between now and then, the center, located at 525 Arch St., will host a myriad of shows, presentations, tours and performances.
One of the highlighted, ongoing events is the “Breaking Barriers Show,” which analyzes the lives and contributions of several pioneering African-Americans, including Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, Jackie Robinson and other ground-breaking people of color from the 1700s forward.
“African American History Month is part of our overall calendar of civic events, and focuses on the days - or in this case, months - out of the year when you’re supposed to focus on what it means to be citizen of the United States and the country we live in,” said National Constitution Center Museum Programs Coordinator Jenna Winterle. “We really want to celebrate civics, and African American History Month [observations] is just one of the ways we celebrate it.
We offer a wide array of programming so any visitor who comes in can learn a little bit more about key African American figures and this history of African Americans themselves and freedom, which was a tough journey for the African American culture.”
The center’s offerings also include a life-sized board game situated in the Grand Hall, which allows families to test their knowledge of African American history. The idea is that the children (and adults) can advance on the board with every correct answer. “It’s a giant-sized board, with our staff asking the questions,” Winterle said. “We do tailor it to African American history, instead of the usual constitutional questions. It’s a real fun game.
“We also have a few other, short educational programs, that run about 20 minutes, and highlight different aspects of African-American history,” Winterle continued. “We have a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation; not the original, which was hand-written, but a printed copy. Only 40 or 50 were ever made, and there’s only about 20 still around. They were auctioned off to raise money during the Civil War. The Emancipation was a great moment in American history, so we do a little workshop, were we look at Abraham Lincoln’s signature, the watermark and history of the emancipation itself.”
The month-long celebration also includes daily self-guided tours with an African-American focus, along with several displays, including artifacts from free African Americans from the 1700s, and invitation and ticket to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration and the expansive “American National tree,” an interactive exhibit that highlights African Americans who helped shape the constitution over the past two centuries. The events culminate with a free admission in Sunday, February 24.
“We’ve always celebrated African American History Month, but expanded it over the past few years with the self-guided tour and the artifacts in the collection that we wanted to highlight,” Winterle said, noting that an ongoing exhibit, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” has similar interest, as it includes the Harlem Renaissance and the music and culture of the time. “This [culture] is something we’ve always recognized.”