Celebrating Black History Groups throughout the Chicago Area Commemorate the Achievements of African-Americans during Black History Month

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Byline: Virginia Kenyon Daily Herald Staff Writer

Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week in the 1920s to commemorate the achievements of blacks in America. He placed the holiday in February because the month included the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who both helped promote civil rights and the advancement of blacks.

Little did he know that 56 years later, in 1976, the commemoration would grow into a full four weeks as Black History Month.

Now museums, libraries and arts groups throughout the Chicago area are hosting events to commemorate the achievements and accomplishments of blacks throughout history.

Here's a look at some of what's planned:


The Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, celebrates the 30th anniversary of Black Creativity, a program designed to raise awareness about and understanding of black's contributions to science, technology, art and culture.

This year's program, "Balancing the Scales: The African American Fight for Justice" examines and explains the importance of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees basic civil rights to all citizens.

The exhibit uses photographs, manuscripts and other artifacts to trace the struggle for blacks' emancipation, suffrage and citizenship from the early days of slavery through the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the Revolutionary War and beyond.

Some key figures that the exhibit touches on are Benjamin Rush, a physician who used his medical background to disprove the notion that blacks were mentally inferior to whites; abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass; Henry Bibb, an escaped slave who helped win support for the abolitionist cause; Harriett Tubman, one of the most famous "conductors" of the Underground Railroad; and Charles Sumner, an abolitionist and senator who led the fight for the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.

The exhibit also includes a special section, "Beyond the Beginning, Into the Millennium," which highlights the role Chicago played in the struggle for civil rights. The exhibit runs through Feb. 28. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3.50 for children. (773) 684-1414.

To kick off this exhibit, the museum is hosting the Black Creativity Gala at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The black-tie affair, now in its 17th year, includes a preview of the exhibit, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by dinner and dancing. For more information on the gala, call (773) 684-9844, Ext. 2436.

The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, explores Africa's cultural legacy during "African Heritage Festival: A Common Thread" from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The fest offers a variety of performances, lectures and activities, and also includes a sneak preview of the drawings and design concepts for the upcoming exhibition "Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity," scheduled to open in April.

Highlights of the festival include the premiere of an original play by the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company. In the family performance "Spinning Tales," at noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the audience will experience the many ways in which textiles are woven into Africa's cultural history.

Storyteller Thetu entertains with African stories, which she creates by drawing upon her Kenyan heritage. At 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Thetu presents these tales of humor, courage, wisdom and African truths. In addition to Thetu's storytelling, there is Story Time at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday where children can listen to "Zomo the Rabbit," a West African tale about an animal trickster. Following this story, children can design their own African-inspired drum to take home.

At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, museum anthropologists explore how textiles relate to Africa's environment, economy and culture in "Madagascar Textiles. …