Black History Month
In the United States and Canada, February is celebrated as Black History Month, a time to recognize and honor the contributions and achievements of African Americans and their role in U.S. history. Here at the City of Bowie, we're proud to celebrate Black History Month.
Keep scrolling for biographies, book recommendations, upcoming Black History Month events in Bowie and more!
The 2024 theme for Black History Month is "African Americans and the Arts". African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary, and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment.
View additional events and programs at the bottom of this page
This month, we showcase several Black Americans who made or are making history in many different ways.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872, to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar, both natives of Kentucky. His mother was formerly enslaved, and his father escaped from slavery and served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War.
Although he lived to be only 33 years old, Dunbar was prolific, writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs, and essays as well as the poetry for which he became well known. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and schoolchildren alike.
His style encompasses two distinct voices, the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America.
Angela Evelyn Bassett is an African American actress. She has become well-known for her biographical film roles portraying notable women such as singer Tina Turner in the motion picture "What's Love Got to Do with It", as well as her portrayal of Betty Shabazz in the films "Malcolm X" and "Black Panther", Rosa Parks in the "The Rosa Parks Story", Katherine Jackson in the miniseries "The Jacksons: An American Dream" and Voletta Wallace in the film "Notorious". She is an Oscar winner and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Bassett was born in Harlem and relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida as a child. Bassett attended Yale University and received her B.A. degree in African-American studies in 1980. In 1983, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama. At Yale, Bassett met her future husband Courtney B. Vance, a 1986 graduate of the drama school.
Josiah Henson was an abolitionist, minister, and author born on June 15, 1789, in Charles County, Maryland. Born into enslavement, Henson found freedom by escaping to Ontario, Canada, where he would later establish a school for other people who had escaped bondage.
As an author, Henson wrote his autobiography "The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself", in 1849. Additionally, Henson was also the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s widely successful novel "Uncle Tom’s Cabin", though he never received any money from its success.
Henson’s school in Canada is known as the Dawn Settlement and a provincial plaque was placed by the Ontario Government to memorialize the land.
Journalist and political analyst April Ryan was born on September 5, 1967 in Baltimore, Maryland to Robert C. Ryan, Sr. and Vivian Ryan. She majored in broadcast journalism at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with her B.S. degree in 1989. There, she worked at the university’s radio station, WEAA-FM, as a disc jockey.
After graduating, Ryan worked as a freelance writer for many television stations across the eastern United States. In 1997, Ryan was hired as an AURN position in the White House press corps and has reported on four United States presidential administrations. Ryan conducted one-on-one interviews with President William Jefferson Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Al Gore, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and Secretary of State John Kerry.
In 2011, Ryan was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association. Ryan’s first book, "The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America", was published in 2015 and won the NAACP Image Award. Her second book, "At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White", was published the following year. In 2017, Ryan became a political analyst with CNN. In 2018, Ryan published her third book, "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House".
James Hubert “Eubie” Blake was born on February 7, 1887, at 319 Forrest Street in Baltimore. One of the most distinguished figures in music in the 20th century, Blake was a legendary pianist, lyricist, and composer of jazz and ragtime, having composed the melody of “Charleston Rag” in 1899 when he was only 16 years old.
He wrote and composed several songs and performances, including the musical sensation "Shuffle Along" with Noble Sissle. Blake was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981 for his contributions to music culture and the world.
Abby Phillip is a CNN News correspondent and a Bowie native who graduated from Bowie High School in 2006 and Harvard University in 2010 with a B.A. in government. She joined the CNN team in 2017 where she primarily covered the White House.
She has also appeared on Washington Week and C-SPAN and has previously worked for The Washington Post and ABC.
In January 2021, she replaced John King as an anchor on the Sunday morning edition of Inside Politics. Abby Phillip was recently inducted as an Honorary Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an honor bestowed on only a handful of accomplished women.
Michael Platt is a chef, author of the books Michael’s Desserts and Recipes for Change, and a Bowie native. He is also an entrepreneur, managing his two businesses: Michael’s Desserts and P.L.L.A.T.E, which stands for Power, Love, Learning, and Access To Everyone. Fueled by the desire to use his love of baking to help others, Platt started Michael’s Desserts in 2017 to provide joy and comfort to children at domestic violence shelters. Michael has also appeared on the Kids Baking Championship TV show. We are excited to welcome such a gifted young man here today, who is the living embodiment of the Dream.
Michael was the keynote speaker at the Diversity Committee's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art program this year.
The Prince George's County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) is also celebrating Black History Month with book recommendations for all ages. Here's a sneak peak of some of the educational and entertaining books they're is recommending for the month of February. Want to see the full list? Visit the PGCMLS Black History Month page for more books, online exhibits, and more,
Black History Month Programs
Tuesday, February 6, 10:30 a.m.
Black History Trivia
Bowie Senior Center, 14900 Health Center Drive
Johnny Brunson has written a book called "Black History Facts As I Know Them". He will share his story and, if you answer a trivia question correctly, you will receive a copy of his book. Come and hear his firsthand experiences about individuals whose accomplishments, awards, and honors are worthy of being uplifted.
Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 2 p.m.
Black History Month Cultural Program
Greenbelt Community Center, 15 Crescent
Featuring Nana Malaya, “the Dancing Diplomat”. Malaya will perform a dramatic presentation describing the Harlem Renaissance; Spoken word from artists Jefe of Greenbelt and Whiskey Girl; Kalen Wright will salute 50 years of hiphop through his award winning hiphop dance; Jazz music presented by Eleanor Roosevelt High School; An interpretive dance from De’Jah Taylor of Sutiland High School Performing Arts program. Please bring non-perishable donations for the St. Hughes food pantry.
Wednesday, February 28, 2024 | 7 p.m.
Bowie City Hall, 15901 Fred Robinson Way
The panel discussion will be focused on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's I Have a Dream Speech. During the conversation, we will discuss where you feel we are in the dream now and contemplate how, as a diverse community, we can continue to propel it forward. Refreshments will be served.
Other Celebrations and Exhibits
View the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture online collection.