A wide variety of events is scheduled in Eastern Jackson County and across the metro area for Black History Month.
1. Kick it off this weekend. “Cotton, Rag Dolls, and the Underground Railroad” is at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Midwest Genealogy Center, 3440 S. Lee’s Summit Road in Independence. The program includes stories about those in Kansas City who helped escaped slaves make their way to freedom in the North. Rag dolls are part of that story. This event for ages 7 and up includes making a rag doll.
On Sunday, Kristen T. Oertel, author of “Harriet Tubman: Slavery, the Civil War, and Civil Rights in the 19th Century,” speaks at 2 p.m. at the Midwest Genealogy Center.
Also Sunday, Debra Sheffer, of Park University and author of “The Buffalo Soldiers: Their Epic Story and Major Campaigns,” discusses early African-American military service. It’s at 2 p.m. in the Missouri Valley Room at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library at 14 W. Tenth St. in downtown Kansas City. Call 816-701-3407 or go to kclibrary.org
2. Historian Brother John presents “Underground Railroad: The Who, What and Where Did It Go,” at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 at the Lee’s Summit branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library, 150 N.W. Oldham Park. He discusses the secret codes, symbols, agents and songs of the Underground Railroad.
3. An exhibit of posters, “A Place for All People,” is on the first floor of the Jackson County Downtown Courthouse, 415 E. 12th St. in Kansas City. It celebrates the opening of the newest Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
4. A workshop, “Finding Your Black Ancestors,” will be led by Sherri Camp, founder and president of the Kansas Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. It’s at 1 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Midwest Genealogy Center. Participants will learn how to determine where their ancestors were enslaved and find out who their owners were.
Other events and resources:
• The Local Investment Commission (Linc), the Kansas City Public Library and the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City have named their six “Midwest Luminaries” for this year. They are Wayne Minor, who was killed in action in World War I; jazz singer Myra Taylor; Missouri Rep. and Sen. Mary Groves Bland; Lloyd Gaines, who fought for and won admission to the University of Missouri; Kansas City Council Member and Kansas City Urban League President Earl Thomas; and Dr. J. Edward Perry, who worked to improve access to health care for African-Americans. Their stories are told in more detail at http://kclinc.org/blackhistory
• “An Evening with Artist Rashid Johnson” at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St. in Kansas City. It’s free. It’s in conjunction with the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, where the exhibit, “Hail We Now Sing Joy,” by Rashid Johnson, opens Thursday and runs through May 21.
• Darryl Littleton, aka D’Militant, presents a comedy event and a screening of “Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy.” It’s from 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Raytown branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library, 6131 Raytown Road.
• “Tales from the Black West,” an interactive musical, takes on the myths of cow punching and also explores the lives of African-American cowboys (and cowgirls) in the Old West. It’s for ages 7 and up, and it’s at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Mid-Continent Blue Ridge branch.
• The Mid-Continent Public Library’s collection includes “African-American History Online,” a reference database covering more than 500 years; “Black Thought and Culture,” with monographs, speeches, essays, articles, and interviews by leaders within the black community; “Slavery and Anti-Slavery,” a collection with a multinational perspective on slavery; and “Slavery, Abolition & Social Justice, 1490-2007,” for the study of slavery and abolition.
• “Make Way for Democracy” is an online exhibit of the World War One Museum in Kansas City. It helps tell the story of black American who saw the war as a chance to improve their economic, social and political conditions. Go to theworldwar.org .