AADL recognizes Black History Month in February with a number of in-person and online events, as well as videos from past events and content for all ages.
In-Person Events for 2023
February 7, 6:30pm at Malletts Creek
Come practice your hand-lettering skills at AADL and letter a quote for Black History Month. Bring your own quote or select one of ours. Learn a few new styles of hand-lettering and use our art supplies of brush pencils, colored pencils, paper and more to create your own one-of-a-kind piece!
February 8, 6:30-7:30pm at the Downtown Library
Author Event | Kidada Williams: I Saw Death Coming
Kidada Williams discusses her new book, a heart-wrenching reexamination of the struggle for survival in the Reconstruction-era South, and what it cost. In I Saw Death Coming, Kidada E. Williams offers a breakthrough account of the much-debated Reconstruction period, transporting readers into the daily existence of formerly enslaved people building hope-filled new lives. Drawing on overlooked sources and bold new readings of the archives, Williams offers a revelatory and, in some cases, minute-by-minute record of nighttime raids and Ku Klux Klan strikes. And she deploys cutting-edge scholarship on trauma to consider how the effects of these attacks would linger for decades—indeed, generations—to come.
This event is in partnership with Literati Bookstore. It includes a signing with books for sale.
February 10, 5-7:30pm at the Downtown Library
Drop in to print a unique design in celebration of Black History Month onto a tote bag or as a poster!
February 18, 11am-1pm at the Downtown Library
Author Event | Jacinda Townsend: Mother Country
Author Jacinda Townsend joins us to discuss and read from her award-winning novel Mother Country.
Jacinda is the author of Mother Country, winner of the 2022 Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and Saint Monkey, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize.
This event is in partnership with, Ann Arbor/Washtenaw BIPOC Moms+, a private group for BIPOC Moms and gender non-binary parents in the region, and with Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center in Ypsilanti.
February 18, 1-2:30pm at Westgate Branch
The Great Migration: Reflections of the Past in Anticipation of the Future
The Great Migration transformed America’s cultural landscape, impacting cities and towns across the nation, including Detroit and Washtenaw County. Participants will learn about the exodus of more than 6 million African Americans from the deep South to the North, Midwest, and West Coast between 1910-1970.
Attendees will view highlights of the Intergenerational Dialogue on the Great Migration, which captured the oral histories of local older adults whose families migrated from the South. These individuals shared their stories with local youth in the community in a series of recorded interviews. As a continuation, we will conduct an in-person dialogue with the roles reversed. This time the older adults will interview the youth members to see what they learned from the exercise.
The Great Migration: Millions Moved is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 4pm at the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County, 1528 Pontiac Trail in Ann Arbor, through March 26th, 2023. The exhibit and intergenerational interviews are a collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL), the AACHM, and the Turner African American Services Council (TAASC).
February 19, 4-5:30pm on Zoom
Culinary Historians | Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine
In her book Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine, Kelley Fanto Deetz draws upon archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to present a study of the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond. She reveals how these men and women were literally "bound to the fire" as they lived and worked in the sweltering and often fetid conditions of plantation house kitchens. These highly skilled cooks drew upon skills and ingredients brought with them from their African homelands to create complex, labor-intensive dishes such as oyster stew, gumbo, and fried fish. However, their white owners overwhelmingly received the credit for their creations.
Deetz's talk focuses on enslaved cooks at Virginia plantations including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon. She restores these forgotten figures to their rightful place in American and Southern history.
Dr. Kelly Fanto Deetz is Director of Education, Programming and Visitor Engagement at Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia. She was a professional chef for several years, and is a contributor to The Routledge History of Food and Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement. Her work has appeared in National Geographic History.
This event is in partnership with the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor.
AADL and AACHM Living Oral History Project
The Living Oral History Project is a partnership between the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor District Library. It contains interviews that serve as a road map illustrating what local African Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today. The associated LOH Digital Collection presents over 2,500 historical photographs and news articles from the AADL Archives about major topics featured in the interviews, including Community Centers, Education, Housing, Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Faith. The LOH Walking Tour showcases historically Black neighborhoods in Ann Arbor.
Click to view all the phases of the Living Oral History project, or view the playlist below.
AADL Black Lives Matter Discussion Series
This intentionally broad discussion series seeks to encourage and support community members in their exploration of and engagement with works that provide insight on anti-Black racism.
Click to view past BLM discussion series videos.
Quote of the Day: Black History Month
Watch a quote come to life every day in February as AADL staff use their skills to make powerful words beautiful. Click for all our videos or watch the playlist below.
Al Paca and Bobby Cat
Puppet neighbors Al Paca and Bobby Cat celebrate Black History Month by exploring what Black History Month is all about and celebrating stories of some of the most influential, interesting, and amazing Black Americans through history. Click to see all of Al Paca and Bobby Cat's videos, or watch the playlist below.
MLK: In His Own Words
Watch 11 videos of hand-drawn Illustrations of quotes from the speeches, articles, and correspondences delivered at various points in Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. Click to see all the quotes or watch the playlist below.
A Selection of Past AADL Events
Culinary Historians | Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue
Across America, the pure love and popularity of barbecue cookery has gone through the roof. Prepared in one regional style or another, in the South and beyond, barbecue is one of the nation’s most distinctive culinary arts. And people aren’t just eating it; they’re also reading books and articles and watching TV shows about it. But why is it, asks Adrian Miller—food writer, attorney and longtime certified barbecue judge—that in today’s barbecue culture African Americans don’t get much love?
In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today. It’s a smoke-filled story of Black perseverance, culinary innovation, and entrepreneurship. Though often pushed to the margins, African Americans have enriched a barbecue culture that has come to be embraced by all. Miller celebrates and restores the faces and stories of the men and women who have influenced this American cuisine.
This event was held in partnership with the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor.
The Life and Music of Vicente Lusitano
University of Michigan faculty member Garrett Schumann and UK-based choir conductor Joseph McHardy present a thrilling exploration of the life and music of Afro-Portuguese Renaissance composer Vicente Lusitano. This presentation will feature video and audio of McHardy’s world-class performances of Lusitano’s compositions recorded earlier this summer, alongside discussion of the pair’s collaborative research uncovering new details of Lusitano’s music and biography.
Since 2020, McHardy and Schumann’s work on Vicente Lusitano has been featured by the BBC, appeared in VAN Magazine, presented at multiple international academic conferences, and their multiple forthcoming publications on this subject include an article in the celebrated encyclopedia Grove Music Online. In June 2022, McHardy led the world’s first-ever all-Lusitano concert tour in England with an ensemble of renowned vocalists assembled in partnership with the award-winning Chineke! Foundation. Recordings from this tour will appear on a CD released through Decca in the near future.
In addition to sharing their findings, Schumann and McHardy will speak to the connections between Lusitano’s misrepresentation in 500 years of classical music scholarship and this field’s historic erasure of composers of African descent and their music.
Not Too Close Concert Series: La'Ron Williams
Presented by the Summer Festival and the Ann Arbor District Library, the Not Too Close events took place in August 2020 in select city parks.
Nationally acclaimed and multiple award-winning storyteller La’Ron Williams shares both original and traditional tales that appeal to a wide range of ages and social backgrounds. His energetic, music-spiced presentations are always fun, highly participatory, educational and entertaining. Every program is specifically designed to promote diversity, foster community building, encourage peaceful conflict resolution and teach a host of “pro-social” skills, including empathy, self-expression and attentive listening. Williams has received high praise for his skill at presenting diversity workshops for adults, helping participants understand the nature of “invisible” bias and moving beyond the emotional stumbling blocks that prevent us from taking collective responsibility for creating a just and equitable society.
Herb Boyd Discusses Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination
Herb Boyd discusses his award-winning book, Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. Black Detroit looks at the evolving culture, politics, economics, and spiritual life of Detroit–a blend of memoir, love letter, history, and clear-eyed reportage that explores the city’s past, present, and future and its significance to the African-American legacy and the nation’s fabric. It brings into focus the major figures who have defined and shaped Detroit, including William Lambert, the great abolitionist; Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records; Coleman Young, the city’s first black mayor; diva songstress Aretha Franklin; Malcolm X; and Ralph Bunche, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Building Matters: Black Architects in Michigan
Local experts discuss the contributions of Black architects, architectural designers, and landscape architects to the built environment of Michigan. They touch on Michigan's first Black-owned architectural firm, Detroit's historic Black Bottom neighborhood, and Detroit's connection to the rise of hip-hop architecture.
Inspiration: Black History Month Project
Watch an AADL staff member use Library resources in order to plan and gather inspiration for a month-long personal project. Stay tuned for an update when the results are revealed.
Inspiration: Black History Month Project Update
See how a month-long project inspired by Black History Month is shaping up as the month winds down.
2021 Washtenaw Reads Author Event | Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have a conversation about the 2021 Washtenaw Reads selection, All American Boys. They discuss how they came to write All American Boys together, the importance of the book's themes in their own lives, and how we can create meaningful inter-racial dialogue around issues like police brutality.
AADL Podcasts Featuring Black Stories and Black Artists
AADL Productions Podcast: Lola Jones and Carol Gibson
Lola Jones and Carol Gibson are well-known to Anyone familiar with Ann Arbor history. Over the past 30 years they've sought out and documented the history of the African American experience in Ann Arbor through a series of projects under the moniker Another Ann Arbor; it is largely through their work that the Ann Arbor African American story is a part of our shared community identity.
Body of Work
Body of a Work is a not-so-serious podcast that takes a look at someone's, well, body of work. Download episodes on Whitney Houston and Martin Luther King Jr.
Ann Arbor Stories: For All the Marbles
That spring in 1936, seven years into the Great Depression, the entire city of Ann Arbor, age 14 and under, lost their marbles over the biggest sporting event the city had ever known— 1936 Ann Arbor Daily News Marbles Tournament. The champion of the west would punch their ticket to the National Marbles Tournament on the Jersey Shore, and a chance at marbles immortality.
Art Prints from the Black Lives Matter: Call for Artists in AADL's Collection
Following AADL's Black Lives Matter: Call for Black Artists in 2020, the Library worked with local artists to add their work to the Library's permanent circulating art print collection. Browse our full art print catalog and request work from these amazing artists. (link includes other artists in AADL's collection as well)