Celebrating Black History at Please Touch Museum
Join us at Please Touch Museum as we celebrate Black History Month through programming, art installations, and more.
Join us throughout the month for Museum programming highlighting Black history makers, milestones, and more.
- Art Workshops: Learn about the work of Lois Mailou Jones as you create a colorful, patterned mixed-media portrait
- Makerspace: Get inspired by innovators like Benjamin Banneker, Lyda Newman, and Madam CJ Walker as you experiment with invention, different materials, and new techniques during our open-ended building time.
- Storytime: Join us for a whole month’s worth of stories by and about Black history makers who changed the world!
- Art Cart: Use bubble wrap to create a print inspired by the art of Alma Thomas.
- Tot Spot: Something is missing in each of our photos of Black innovators, and we need our youngest visitors and their excellent eye for shapes to help us find them and match each missing item to the correct photo!
- Pop-Up Dress-Up: Put on your lab coats and space helmets and join us in our Rocket Room as we make our own rockets and launch them into the sky in honor of Black women like astronaut Mae Jemison and mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson!
- Pop-Up Music: Travel through time from Motown to right now playing instruments and singing songs associated with the Black musicians who changed music history!
- Pop-Up Play: Put on aviator hats and goggles and let’s make a human airplane! We’ll fly around the museum just like Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to hold a pilot’s license. Then, stick around for some paper airplane making!
The following Black changemakers are featured in the Museum’s Black History Walk, on display throughout February. Click each name to view the short biography on view in the Museum, and a link to more information.
James Baldwin was born in New York, New York. Baldwin is known as a powerful essayist and novelist who was active in the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Baldwin spent much of his adult life in Paris, France while remaining a strong voice on racial equity in the United States. Baldwin was a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and believed that everyone’s experience mattered. Baldwin’s captivating public speaking and his poignant writing continue to inform activism today!
Elizabeth Catlett is from Washington, D.C. Catlett attended the historically Black university Howard University, where she studied art. She went on to earn her MFA from the University of Iowa. She spent much of her life living in Mexico, where she had a family and continued making art that expressed the African American experience. Catlett also felt connected to Mexican culture, and incorporated aspects of her understanding of the Mexican experience into her art. Galleries and museums have held over 50 solo exhibitions of Catlett’s prints and sculptures! Catlett’s work remains inspirational and widely admired.
Quinta Brunson is a writer and comedian who was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the creator, executive producer, writer, and star of the award-winning ABC comedy series Abbott Elementary, and the first Black woman to be nominated three times in the Emmy Awards’ comedy category. She has received an Emmy and two Golden Globe awards for her work and continues to impress fans with both her acting and writing skills!
Sophia Danenberg is from Homewood, Illinois. In 2006 Danenberg became the first African American woman to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.
Danenburg attended Harvard University and is a known mountaineer. She completed a prestigious Fulbright fellowship at Keio University in Tokyo. Danenberg currently works for The Boeing Company developing their international environment, health and safety (EHS) policy analysis program. Danenberg continues to be a trailblazer for African Americans in mountaineering and exploring!
Rosa Parks is from Tuskegee, Alabama. Parks became a member of the NAACP in 1943 and worked as a Youth Secretary for the organization. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up on a bus in Montgomery,
Alabama when a white bus driver asked her to move for a white passenger. Parks’ refusal helped the NAACP to
organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where thousands of African Americans refused to ride the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks’ bravery helped spark the Civil Rights Movement!
André Leon Talley
André Leon Talley was born in Washington, D.C., but was raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina. Talley attended Brown University and eventually began working with the art world and fashion elite. André Leon Talley became the first African American Creative Director of Vogue magazine in 1988. Talley went on to become an Editor-at-Large at Vogue, and was known to provide guidance to many in the fashion industry. Talley’s passion for fashion and impact on the world was incredible, as he nurtured many fashion superstars throughout the course of his career!
Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was the first African American woman to run for President of the United States for the Democratic party in 1972. She famously penned her autobiography Unbought and
Unbossed, and served seven terms in the U.S. House of
Representatives for the state of New York. Chisholm
was a steadfast champion for economic, racial,
and gender equity!
Frederick Douglass was born around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass was a formerly enslaved activist who fought against slavery in the United States. Douglass was a public speaker and author, as he penned his famous autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845. Douglass also advocated for women’s right to vote. Douglass’ impact on American life and the abolition of slavery was profound and paved the way for future human rights campaigns.
Harriet Tubman was born under the name Araminta Ross on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. After enduring a hard life as an enslaved woman, Tubman escaped in 1849. Once free, she began to help other enslaved people escape bondage. She guided many people to safety by becoming a “conductor” for the Underground Railroad. By 1860, she had made 19 trips to slave-owning states to help free enslaved people. During the Civil War, she worked for the Union army as a nurse, spy, and cook. Tubman was regarded by many of her colleagues as one of the most courageous people they knew!
Katherine Johnson was born in White Sulfur Springs,
West Virginia. Johnson had a career as an educator, and eventually as a data analyst for the National Advisory
Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Laboratory. In 1957, the Soviet satellite Sputnik was launched, and Johnson provided the math for a document entitled, “Notes on Space Technology.” Johnson also did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard in the famous May 1961 mission Freedom 7, the U.S.’s first human spaceflight. Katherine remains an inspiration for millions of lovers of STEM around the world!
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was born near Diamond,
Missouri one year before slavery was outlawed. Carver was an inventor and a scientist who helped to invent many products using sweet potatoes, soybeans, and peanuts. Carver became known for his important work on soil that helped to produce healthy crops. Carver taught and did research at the Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University, a historically Black university. Carver’s contribution to agriculture was groundbreaking!
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent much of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother. Dr. Angelou was an amazing orator and writer. She earned over 50 honorary doctorate degrees, has 30 bestselling titles and wrote 36 books. Dr. Angelou’s poetry, autobiographies, and books on various topics have inspired millions of people
around the world!
Throughout the month of February, visit the torch in Hamilton Hall to view an art installation celebrating African American artists, innovators, and leaders from various time periods of American history, including contemporary changemakers.
The project showcases photographs of Black leaders collaged onto mirrors, allowing visitors to see themselves while viewing these inspirational individuals. Visitors can learn about each changemaker’s meaningful contributions, while also reflecting on how they themselves can effect change.
Leaders were chosen from a wide net of time in an effort to show the different stages of the fight for social justice and reform from a lens of success and triumph in the Black community. The portraits celebrate joy, perserverance, and courage.
Learn more about some of the Black leaders highlighted in the Black History Walk and our art installation:
- Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome
- Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
- She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown
- Grandpa Stops a War: A Paul Robeson Story by Susan Robeson
- Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader by Michelle Duster
- A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington by Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders
- Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
- Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Celebrating Black Joy
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
- All Because You Matter by Tami Charles
- Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins
- Have You Thanked An Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin
- Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford and James E. Ransome
- The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
- Additional resources from Boston College Library