Black history is American history. That simple fact is beautifully illustrated in the Oscar-nominated blockbuster film Hidden Figures. Hidden Figures is the inspiring, untold true story of Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — brilliant African-American women working at NASA in the 1950s and ’60s who served pivotal roles behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. They worked as “human computers,” making calculations for the space program at a time when African Americans and women were widely discriminated against. But despite the obstacles of the Civil Rights era, they crossed all race and gender lines to inspire future generations to dream big.
Movies like this are important not only because they offer positive role models, but also because they teach messages like integrity, perseverance, and inclusion — working together to achieve great things.
Through the arts, the next few weeks offer ample opportunities in the Memphis area to help children (and parents) explore a perspective of American history they may not know a lot about, like the story of Hidden Figures.
Art that Teaches
Hattiloo Theatre presents The Meeting. The production depicts a hypothetical meeting between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The Meeting illuminates the ongoing debate between the two prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement: how to achieve the same goal — equality for all people — but through very different means.
Recommended for children ages 11 and up. Hattiloo Theatre’s The Meeting at Halloran Center at The Orpheum, Friday, February 3, 6:30 p.m. $15.
The Chucalissa Archaeological Park is known for its documentation of Native Americans in the region, but the month of February provides the opportunity to show how the lives of Native Americans and African Americans crossed paths. Tour the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, enjoy the hands-on lab, and watch a family-friendly film every Sunday in February from 1 to 5 p.m. Film starts at 2 p.m. and changes weekly. Free admission. Showing Feb. 5: Black Indians, An American Story. Feb. 12: Slavery by Another Name. Feb. 19: Freedom Riders. Feb. 26: The Abolitionists.
Ballet On Wheels, a community-based ballet school and youth dance company, and the Memphis Public Library are collaborating to host a Black History event celebrating and honoring the history of African-American ballerinas.
The exhibit — “Groundbreakers: African-American Ballerina Stories of Triumph and Struggles” — will feature photos of African-American ballerinas, including “History Firsts” and historical performance materials by Ballet On Wheels. The month-long celebration will have a series of events.
Thursday, February 2
“Groundbreakers: African-American Ballerina Stories of Triumph and Struggles” kicks off with the exhibit opening & reception. 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at Goodwyn Gallery inside the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar Ave.).
Thursday, February 9
As part of the month-long Black History Month Celebration, Ballet On Wheels Dance School and Company and the Memphis Public Library hosts a screening and discussion of the 12-minute documentary, “First African-American Ballerinas.” From 6 to 7:00 p.m. at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Free and open to the public. 870-4348.
Saturday, February 18
Read, Write & Move. Features an interpretive performance by the Ballet On Wheels Dance Company through Black History storytelling. Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. 1-2 p.m. Free. 870-4348.
Saturday, February 25
The Black History Month celebration at the Memphis Public library concludes with a Ballet On Wheels Dance Company performance in the Main Exhibit Hall honoring African-American ballerinas. 11 a.m. until noon. Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Free. 870-4348.