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Annual Black History Events in Durham

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4 minutes

The history of African Americans in Durham is as integral to our story as the mortar and brick that built the Bull City.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff

Grit, fortitude, and the unapologetic pursuit of justice are lasting legacies of a community that influenced the progress of Americans toward equality from coast to coast.

As Durhamites, we stand in the shadow of those who came before us, strengthened by the seeds of justice and equality planted here not long ago. We invite you to learn, reflect, celebrate, and experience Black people's history through Durham events and activities.

Annual Events


NCCU Black History Month Celebration

February 2021


Usually, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) observes Black History Month with a series of events that are free and open to the public.

Because of COVID-19, the university hopes to celebrate virtually with film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, and musical and theatrical performances throughout February, including appearances by nationally noted activists, authors, scholars, and educators.

The Hayti Heritage Film Festival
March 1-6, 2021

The Hayti Heritage Film Festival (HHFF) commemorates over 25 years of celebrating Durham's African American heritage and the historic Hayti community, which was a thriving enclave in the early 20th century.

This year, the festival is pleased to present its 27th annual film festival, "The Hero's Journey," which takes place March 1 - 6, 2021. Usually, there are in-person events and celebrations, but because of COVID-19, the festival will mostly be virtual with films from new and veteran artists, panel discussions with industry experts, a series of in-person drive-in events, and an online performance. Festival attendees will be able to view some outstanding work from the African diaspora and dive into the craft of filmmaking.

One of the highlights is a film called MLK/FBI, a ground-breaking documentary by Oscar®-nominee Sam Pollard, that uncovers the extent of the FBI's surveillance and harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. based on newly discovered and declassified files.

Art of Cool
April 2021

The annual Art of Cool Festival is a celebration of alternative soul and jazz music that attracts people from all over. The three-day extravaganza features 20+ nationally touring performers across two outdoor stages and five venues.

Past performers include Anthony Hamilton, Snarky Puppy, and Roy Ayers.

Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival
May 2021

The Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival was established in honor of the West African festival of harvest and celebration. After the season of harvest, entire villages would gather to give thanks through dance, praise, and feasting.

The national award-winning Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival will celebrate its 52nd Anniversary this year! This family-oriented event is a celebration of African and African American history, culture, arts, and traditions. Visit the Bimbé History page for information on how the festival has evolved throughout the years and to stay up to date on the event this year.

Black August in the Park
August 2021

Black August in the Park is an annual event with a mission to creatively inspire and connect people of African descent to assert their value and engage in social and cultural change. This event is meant to be a beautiful celebration of Blackness that celebrates Black-owned businesses and gives social justice groups a platform. They provide a space where people of ALL different corners of the diaspora and Black experience can connect with local and regional justice movements while simultaneously and unapologetically celebrating their blackness.

Usually, Black August in the Park takes place in downtown Durham at Durham Central Park, but because of COVID-19, the event may be virtual and/or NC State Fairgrounds again. Stay tuned for 2021 updates.

Book Harvest's Dream Big MLK day
January 2021

On MLK Day each year, local nonprofit Book Harvest hosts Dream Big, a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy, and books for all children held at Durham Central Park. You can continue to donate new or gently used children’s books, and volunteer to help sort and box donations well beyond the day as well. Visit www.bookharvestnc.org to learn more!

Are you looking for ways to learn, reflect, and celebrate Black history all year long?

Historic Stagville is a state historic site that includes the remnants of one of the largest plantations in North Carolina. The Bennehan-Cameron family owned approximately 30,000 acres of land and claimed ownership of the 900 people who were enslaved on the property. Stagville is dedicated to teaching about the lives and work of enslaved people on the plantation.

Durham is filled with public art dedicated to celebrating the Black history and artists of Durham. Here's a Murals Guide with information and pictures of some of the incredible murals you can visit around Durham.

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