City of Cambridge

Black History Month 2017

African motif

Each year since 1976, the United States has set aside the month of February to celebrate and reflect upon the achievements and contributions by people of color to our country and its history.While we can and should be celebrating the contributions of all of the great diverse members of our society each and every day, Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity for us to look back upon the rich and important contributions to our country by African Americans throughout our country’s history.

The celebration of Black History month has a Cambridge connection: the idea of holding a regular celebration of African Americans and their contribution to our country was first championed by historian Carter G. Woodson, the first African American to graduate with a Doctorate in History from Harvard University. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson envisioned Negro history week to be celebrated in the second week of February, and fifty years later, President Gerald R. Ford officially expanded this to the Black History Month that we have come to know ever since. As President Ford stated, this would be an opportunity for the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The Mayor’s Office is proud to present a number of different events to celebrate Black History Month in 2017, and these shall be added to this page as they are confirmed. For more information about any of these events, please contact my office at 617.349.4321 or email

List of information and events are below:

  • An evening with Author: Bernice McFadden Thursday, February 23, 2017, 6 PM – 8:00 PM · Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall· ·449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA.

BERNICE L. McFADDEN is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). She lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Book of Harlan is her latest novel. For more information about this event, please visit the Facebook page created for the event here:

  • Art Exhibition by Kencaid in the Mayor’s Office, February 1 – February 28.

Cambridge-born artist Kencaid has been honing his signature pyrography (wood-burning) style for over twenty years. The process begins with taking a photo of a Boston landmark, then drawing the image freehand on a well-sanded surface, employing a keen sense of composition and attention to wood grain. Then, using light-handed strokes and smooth subtle shading, the wood is burned with a soldering iron. The work is completed by applying acrylics with a paperclip – hence, Kencaid’s nickname: “The Paperclip Artist.” When he discovered the art of pyrography in 1989, his first piece, “King and Queen,” was skillfully wood-burned and painted, taking eight months to complete. Kencaid’s art has been displayed throughout the Boston area at locations such as Citizens Bank (Central Square, Cambridge); Cambridge City Hall; Harvard Vanguard (Kenmore Square, Boston); the Middle East Restaurant (Central Square, Cambridge); and he has been featured on WCVB’s Chronicle. Kencaid believes his artistry honors the beauty, culture, and history of Greater Boston, and just as importantly, it supports pyrography’s place in the world of fine art. Beyond his art, Kencaid’s greatest love is for his three daughters, his son, and his seven grandchildren. He can be reached by email at

  • An Evening with Bobby Seal, co-founder of the Black Panther Party · Monday, February 27, 2017, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM · Washburn Auditorium, at Lesley University

Mr. Seale is the author of "Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers," published in October 2016. The book tells the story of the Black Panther Party, founded 50 years ago in 1966 by Seale and Huey P. Newton. The words are Seale's with contributions by other former party members. Admired, reviled, emulated, misunderstood, the Black Panther Party was one of the most creative and influential responses to racism and inequality in American history. The advocated armed self-defense to counter police brutality, and initiated a program of patrolling the police with shotguns–and law books. To learn more about this event, please visit:

  • Screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” · Tuesday, February 07, 2017, 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM · Lesley University Amphitheater, 1815 Massachusetts Avenue

In the turbulent 1960s, change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored–cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derail. For more information about this event, please visit:

  • Screening of “The Meeting” · Wednesday, February 01, 2017 · 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM · University Amphitheater, 1815 Massachusetts Avenue

"The Meeting", that depicts a fictional encounter between two prominent black American activists and leaders of our time, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film highlights a difference in perspective regarding their approach to racial justice, which allowed the two of them to be categorized as the "Revolutionary" and the "Dreamer". For more information about this event, please visit:

  • Art Exhibition titled, “Picturing Frederick Douglass” · July 15, 2016 - July 31st, 2017 · The Museum of African American History · 46 Joy St, Boston, MA 02114.

Frederick Douglass was in love with photography. From his earliest known photograph in 1841 until his passing in 1895, he sat for his portrait whenever he could and became the most photographed American of the nineteenth century; more photographed than President Abraham Lincoln. In this first major exhibition of Douglass photographs, we offer a visually stunning re-introduction to America's first black celebrity —immediately recognizable in his own lifetime by millions. Picturing Frederick Douglass promises to revolutionize our knowledge of race and photography in 19th century America. It is based upon a recently published, acclaimed book of the same name by Drs. John Stauffer of Harvard University and Zoe Trodd of the University of Nottingham, co-curators of the exhibit. For more information about this event, please visit:

  • The Cambridge jazz Festival Celebrates Black History Month. · Sunday February 19, 2017, from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM · Abundant Life Church, 47 Howard Street, Cambridge, MA

The Cambridge Jazz Festival Celebrates Black History Month with a concert featuring renowned vocalist Gabrielle Goodman with acclaimed saxophonist Walter Beasley paying tribute to Johnny Hodges, a Cambridge native famously known for his work as a solo saxophonist as part of Duke Ellington's Big Band. Proceeds will help to keep the 2017 4th Annual Cambridge bridge Jazz Festival Free. For more information, please visit:

Last Updated: 2/23/2017

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