Arts & Cultural Events Observe African-American Heritage

Wilmington NC Historic River District and Island BeachesWilmington, NC – Wilmington, North Carolina is among the most historically significant African-American regions in the United States. African-American ancestry is traced back to the 1700’s, and although much important history left no visible landmark, several historical sites still exist, such as the Cape Fear Museum, Bellamy Mansion, and Thalian Hall. Other sites include the 1898 Memorial, churches, cemeteries, and historical markers such as the U.S. Colored Troops highway marker at the Wilmington National Cemetery and Orange Street Landing at Cape Fear, a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site that interprets the story of 11 slaves who escaped to freedom. During the month of February, festivals and special events celebrate Black History Month. Other events that commemorate African-American heritage take place throughout the year.


Here’s a sampling of events during February, which is nationally designated as Black History Month:


CAPE FEAR MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS: Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art (ongoing through March 16) highlights the beauty of coiled basketry and shows how a basket can be viewed simultaneously as a work of art, object of use and container of memory. Exhibition made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is brought to the museum by Mid-America Arts Alliance and is organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4350;


FEB. 2-5: “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.” Thur.-Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm. The Thalian Association presents this popular stage version which continues to be one of the most inspiring of the American classics addressing the themes of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. Admission charge; tickets required. Thalian Hall Main Stage, Wilmington. 910-632-2285 or 800-523-2820;


FEB. 4, 11, 18, 25: AFRICAN ART PROGRAM. 1-4pm. Discover the African influences in Lower Cape Fear art and culture. Explore the geography of Africa and uncover the origins of Low-country basketry. Find out how African artisans helped design local historic architecture. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4350;


FEB. 4: GULLAH/GEECHEE-MANIA! 1-2pm. Ron Daise, star of the Nick Jr. television show “Gullah Gullah Island” will lead an exciting interactive “game show” for all ages. Discover the Gullah/Geechee people, history, songs, culinary traditions and trivia. Explore the culture and heritage of this unique Southeastern coastal community. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4350;


FEB. 13-18: INTERCULTURAL WEEK & FESTIVAL. A full schedule of events to celebrate the rich diversity of cultures found within UNCW and the Wilmington community. Throughout the week there will be lectures, films, exhibits, theatrical and musical offerings. On Saturday, the Intercultural Festival features international foods, special exhibits, music and dance performances in the Burney Center from 11am-3pm. Events are free unless otherwise noted. UNCW campus (Saturday events take place at the UNCW Burney Center), Wilmington. 910-962-3685;


FEB 16: SPOKEN WORD: COAST POETRY JAM. 8pm. Enjoy poetry by local poets and music by Eclectic Soul. Produced by COAST radio’s “Yo Girl” Sandra and hosted by Bigg B. Admission charge. Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington. 910-763-0973;


FEB. 19: BLACK HISTORY QUIZ BOWL. 6pm-8pm. UNCW Fisher Student Center, Lumina Theater. 910-962-3500;


FEB. 21: LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO. 8pm. The award-winning, world-renowned South African vocal ensemble returns to Thalian Hall. Admission charge. Thalian Hall, Wilmington. 910-632-2285;


FEB. 21: COMMUNITY CONVERSATION: THE HOME FRONT. 6:30pm-8:30pm. Discussion with noted historians about what happened to slaves during the Civil War and how the home front functioned during wartime. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington. 910-798-4362;


FEB. 24-25: 7TH ANNUAL CIVIL WAR LIVING HISTORY WEEKEND. Sat.: 9am-5pm (Ghost Walk at 6:30 pm) & Sun.: 9am-2pm (museum open until 5pm). The living history program provides a look into life during the Civil War with a reenactment, encampments, demonstrations and a nighttime ghost walk. To commemorate the 147h anniversary of the Battle of Forks Road, Confederate, Union and U.S. Colored Troops re-enactors provide a glimpse into the camp life of soldiers in the late 1800s. The site is where Major General Robert F. Hoke made his last stand against Union soldiers comprised primarily of U.S. Colored Troops. This significant skirmish on February 20, 1865 followed the fall of Fort Fisher, and led to the fall of Wilmington and the final surrender by the Confederate armies. History comes to life on this informative and fun day for all! Free; donations welcome. Cameron Art Museum, 910-395-5999;


FEB. 25: FAMILY CONCERT: JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER DISCOVERING THE GROOVE IN JAZZ AND YOU. 7pm. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Alvin Atkinson (drummer) and his Quartet explore the many infectious rhythms and grooves in jazz music from swing to boogaloo to Afro-Cuban. Admission charge. UNCW Kenan Auditorium, Wilmington. 910-962-3500;


FEB. 28: JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA WITH WYNTON MARSALIS. 8pm. Wynton Marsalis returns to Wilmington with the internationally acclaimed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Jazz musician, trumpeter, composer, bandleader, advocate for the arts and educator, Mr. Marsalis has helped propel jazz to the forefront of American culture. Admission charge; tickets required. UNCW Kenan Auditorium, Wilmington. 910-962-3500 or 800-732-3643;


ONGOING: BELLAMY MANSION MUSEUM OF HISTORY & DESIGN ARTS. Currently on display is a collection of photographs by renowned architectural photographer Tim Buchman of Charlotte. The photography exhibit showcases the architectural woodwork of Thomas Day, an extraordinary free black cabinetmaker in antebellum North Carolina. The exhibit draws heavily upon the Preservation North Carolina publication: Thomas Day, Master Craftsman and Free Man of Color, which explores the life and legacy of the accomplished artisan and entrepreneur. The exhibit will be on display through December 2012. On the northeast corner of the Bellamy lot stands the original brick slave quarters, which has been recently restored. Admission charge. Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington. 910-251-3700;

ONGOING: CAPE FEAR MUSEUM OF HISTORY & SCIENCE. Exhibits trace African-American history in the Cape Fear region from the 1700s to 20th century. Explore the development and desegregation of New Hanover County schools through images, artifacts, personal recollections. These stories provide insight into our community’s history. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum of History & Science, Wilmington. 910-798-4350;



MARCH 22-25: 11th ANNUAL NORTH CAROLINA BLACK FILM FESTIVAL. This 4-day juried and invitational competition offers screenings of independent films by African-American filmmakers with guest artists, panel discussions, workshops, and more. Genres include features, shorts, animation, and documentary films. Sponsored by the Black Arts Alliance. Admission charge. Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington. 910-612-7832;;


Festivals and events provide a fun and affordable way to experience a region’s history and culture. Wilmington, N.C.’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach is a year-round coastal destination that’s a convenient drive from Raleigh via I-40 and Charlotte via US 74. Events often change without notice; please confirm details with event organizers. For visitor information, visit, where you’ll also find a complete Event Calendar. To request a free Official Visitors Guide call 1-866-266-9690 or email

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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