Black History Month Programs and Activities


Black History Month Events and Activities

Amid a heightened struggle with longstanding racial inequity and injustice, the Library is joining our city and country in marking the annual February observance of Black History Month. Never, perhaps, has it had more resonance.

In partnership with PNC Bank, the Library is featuring a monthlong lineup of commemorative programming – from a discussion of an acclaimed film about a trailblazing high school rowing team in Chicago’s rough West Side to a conversation between Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and a singular figure in the city’s decades-long fight for civil rights, Alvin Brooks. All are online presentations that you can view at We hope you’ll join us.

In addition to its support of Black History Month-related signature programming, PNC Bank is helping to make copies of critically acclaimed and best-selling books celebrating African American history and culture available to the Library’s array of book clubs. Titles range from Men We Reaped, a memoir by National Book Award winner Jessmyn Ward, to Tyehimba Jess’ Pulitzer Prize-winning blend of sonnet, song, and narrative, Olio.

The books will be made available to all Kansas City community and Library-sponsored book groups. For the Library's menu, go here.


Signature programming lineup - Co-Presented by PNC Bank


A Most Beautiful Thing  |  Wednesday, February 10

Arshay Cooper captained the nation’s first all-Black high school rowing team, flanked by an improbable assortment of young men from different neighborhoods and with differing gang affiliations. He joins director Mary Mazzio in a discussion of the documentary A Most Beautiful Thing, which chronicles their bonding in a boat and in a sport that few African Americans saw as being for them. Sherman Whites, a director in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, moderates the conversation. The Kauffman Foundation joins PNC Bank as a co-presenter.

Those who RSVP for the event by 10 p.m. on Tuesday, February 9, will receive a link through which they can watch the film in advance of the discussion.

Details | RSVP

The Montford Point Marines: A Case Study on Integration  |  Thursday, February 18 

Jeremy Maxwell, a historian at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, examines the African American unit that swept aside skepticism to successfully integrate the Marine Corps in 1942. The Montford Point Marines, named for the North Carolina base on which they trained, distinguished themselves throughout the Pacific Theater in World War II – most notably on Okinawa, where approximately 2,000 members saw intense action.

Maxwell is writing a book on the historic unit.

Details | RSVP

Binding Us Together | Tuesday, February 23 

In a conversation with Quinton Lucas, Kansas City’s mayor since 2019, the now-88-year-old Alvin Brooks reflects on a lifetime of difference-making activism, community building, and public service. Born into poverty and a racist society, he became a trailblazing police officer and detective, city councilman, and mayor pro tem, as well as founder of the AdHoc Group Against Crime and chair of the local chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE).

The event, also co-presented by Rainy Day Books, marks the launch of Brooks’ new autobiography Binding Us Together: A Civil Rights Activist Reflects on a Lifetime of Community and Public Service.

Details | RSVP

More Black History Events


Missouri Valley Sundays: A Legacy of Leadership | Sunday, February 21 

The Library’s range of Black History Month-related program also includes a Missouri Valley Sundays presentation on another Kansas City civil rights icon, Leon Jordan, who was among the most influential African Americans in Missouri before being shot to death in 1970. Local filmmaker Emiel Cleaver, the son of former city mayor and current U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, examines Jordan’s career and enduring legacy in a discussion of his new film A Legacy of Leadership at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 21.

The event is co-presented by the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area as part of a grant to engage the community in discussions of race and equality.

Details | RSVP


Mr. SOUL!  |  Friday, February 19

The latest installment of the Library’s Indie Lens Pop-Up Film Series offers a screening and discussion of the documentary Mr. SOUL!. It spotlights one of the most culturally significant television shows in U.S. history, SOUL!, and the man who guided it, Ellis Haizlip.

Running on public television from the late 1960s to the early-’70s, Haizlip’s series spotlighted Black music, literature, poetry, and politics and earned critical praise and public support as one of the first platforms to expand the image of African American on TV.

DetailsDetails on RSVPing for the Library event and accessing the screening and discussion of Mr. SOUL! are coming soon. 


Explore local Black History

Spotlight on Black History in Kansas City

The Library also has partnered with the Local Investment Commission (LINC), Black Archives of Mid-America, and Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center on a special publication highlighting the accomplishments and legacies of more than 70 notable African Americans in Kansas City history. Kansas City Black History: The African American story of history and culture in our community is being distributed to area schools, churches, and community centers and across the Library system, and individuals can request single print copies – free of charge – from LINC or download a digital version. Profiles and essays from the booklet also will be featured on a companion website,, launching soon. The Library is developing related lesson plans in collaboration with local educators.


Reading, Watching, Listening Recommendations

From classic literature to contemporary cinema, the Library offers a number of ways to discover stories celebrating the African American experience. As we commemorate Black History Month, check out a selection of recommended books and browse the collection of films available through the Library's free streaming services. The works of fiction and nonfiction listed here range in topic from slavery to Black Lives Matter, from Civil War to civil rights, and from social media to social justice.



PNC Bank