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Black History Month

Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements by African Americans and a time to honor the central role of black Americans in U.S. history and beyond.


Black History Month at Goodman South Madison Library

In celebration of Black History Month, an exhibit of UMOJA’s beautifully decorated cover art is on display at the Goodman South Madison Library for the month of February.  All events below happening at the Goodman South Madison Library.

Madison African American Artists Who Created UMOJA Covers
Thursday, January 30, 6-7:30 p.m. ​
This event will feature remarks from five artists who will be present: Jerry Butler, Jerry Jordan, Linda Mathis Rose, Henry Hawkins and Freida High Tesfagiorgis.  They will share their art, its connections to African American history and culture, and their partnership with UMOJA.  The event will feature a performance of Lift Every Voice by Pam Soward and a short movie about the history of UMOJA and its founder, Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana.  A dinner reception will feature African American food from local African American caterer, Ruthie’s Chili Spot.  In celebration of Black History Month, an exhibit of UMOJA’s beautifully decorated cover art is on display at the Goodman South Madison Library through February.

Good Food for the Soul
Thursday, February 13, 6-7:30 p.m.
Farmer Robert Pierce and Chef Ruthie Allen will discuss good food and the roles food and farming play in Madison’s African American community, past and present. The event will include famous Black love songs, food from Chef Ruthie and a chocolate tasting from CocoVaa, and information about the Committee for a Black History Museum in Madison.

Tribute to Our Elders: Speak and Song
Thursday, February 20, 6-7:30 p.m.
This is a tribute to Wisconsin civil rights activist Joe McClain, community activists, and our elders.  Learn why elders are important and necessary to Black legacy with additional information about the Committee for a Black History Museum in Madison. Joe McClain testimonials are welcomed.  Precious Memories Choir, a choir made up of people with memory loss, their caregivers, family and friends, will sing.  A Soul food tribute, with historical African Americans dishes from local African American caterer, Ruthie’s Chili Spot, will be offered.

African American History in Madison
Thursday, February 27, 6-7:30 p.m.
Local history buffs Pia Kinney James and Char Braxton pay tribute to their legacies in Madison through a discussion of Madison past, present and future.  James was the first African American woman police officer and Braxton is on staff with the Odyssey Program. Both are from African American families who have lived in Madison for generations.  There will also be a Soul food meal featuring African American food from local African American caterer, Ruthie’s Chili Spot.

Special thanks to the Committee for a Black History in Museum in Madison members (Greg Jones, Fabu Phillis Carter, Kimberly Williams, Pia, Donna Page, Margaret Nellis and Peggy Wireman) and Ruthie’s Comfort Food, LLC.  This program is funded by a grant from Beyond the Page, with additional funding from the Madison Community Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Friends of Goodman South Madison Library.

The exhibit celebrates the history and contributions of Madison’s black community.  This is only the first step in involving the community in more elaborate recognitions, a larger exhibit or exhibits, perhaps even a museum.  Those interested in exploring future efforts should contact Greg Jones @ or Peggy Wireman @  This exhibit grew out of a report of 20 interviews Ideas for a Display or Museum Featuring the History and Contributions of American Americans in Madison.  For a free copy contact Dr. Peggy Wireman @  The exhibit can be viewed during all open hours at the Goodman South Madison Library.

Wisconsin Book Festival Events

Wisconsin Book Festival Presents Danez Smith for Homie
Monday, Feb 10, 7:00-8:00pm - Central Library
Smith is back with their highly anticipated third collection, Homie. A magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship, Homie is rooted in their search for joy and intimacy in a time where both are scarce. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is written for friends: for Danez’s, for yours. ​
Danez Smith is the author of Homie, Don’t Call Us Dead, winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection and a finalist for the National Book Award, and [insert boy], winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. They live in Minneapolis.

Wisconsin Book Festival Presents Marlon James for Black Leopard Red Wolf 
Thursday, Feb 13, 7:00-8:00pm - Central Library
Presented in partnership with the UW Center for the Humanities and the Distinguished Lecture Series. In the stunning first novel in Marlon James's Dark Star trilogy, a Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.
Marlon James was born in Jamaica in 1970. He is the author of the New York Times-bestseller Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in 2019. His novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. James divides his time between Minnesota and New York.

Wisconsin Book Festival Presents Brandon Taylor for Real Life
Thursday, Mar 12, 7:00-8:00pm - A Room of One's Own (315 W. Gorham St.)
A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice. A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend--and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends--some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community. Real Life is a gut punch of a novel, a story that asks if it's ever really possible to overcome our private wounds and buried histories--and at what cost.Brandon Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop..

Wisconsin Book Festival Presents Amaud Johnson for Imperial Liquor
Monday, Apr 6, 7:00-8:00pm - Central Library
Imperial Liquor is a chronicle of melancholy, a reaction to the monotony of racism. These poems concern loneliness, fear, fatigue, rage, and love; they hold fatherhood held against the vulnerability of the black male body, aging, and urban decay. Part remembrance, part swan song for the Compton, California of the 1980s, Johnson examines the limitations of romance to heal broken relationships or rebuild a broken city. Slow Jams, red-lit rooms, cheap liquor, like seduction and betrayal—what’s more American? This book tracks echoes, rides the residue of music “after the love is gone.”
A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, Amaud Jamaul Johnson is a winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Dorset Prize, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the MacDowell Colony, and Cave Canem. Born and raised in Compton, California, he is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Wisconsin Book Festival Presents Steven Wright for The Coyotes of Carthage
Tuesday, Apr 14, 7:00-8:00pm - Central Library
A blistering and thrilling debut—a biting exploration of American politics, set in a small South Carolina town, about a political operative running a dark money campaign for his corporate clients. Dre Ross has one more shot. Despite being a successful political consultant, his aggressive tactics have put him on thin ice with his boss, Mrs. Fitz, who plucked him from juvenile incarceration and mentored his career. She exiles him to the backwoods of South Carolina with $250,000 of dark money to introduce a ballot initiative on behalf of a mining company. The goal: to manipulate the locals into voting to sell their pristine public land to the highest bidder.
Dre arrives in God-fearing, flag-waving Carthage County, with only Mrs. Fitz’s well-meaning yet naïve grandson Brendan as his team. Dre, an African-American outsider, can’t be the one to collect the signatures needed to get on the ballot. So he hires a blue-collar couple, Tyler Lee and his pious wife, Chalene, to act as the initiative’s public face. Under Dre’s cynical direction, a land grab is disguised as a righteous fight for faith and liberty. As lines are crossed and lives ruined, Dre’s increasingly cutthroat campaign threatens the very soul of Carthage County and perhaps the last remnants of his own humanity. A piercing portrait of our fragile democracy and one man’s unraveling, The Coyotes of Carthage paints a disturbingly real portrait of the American experiment in action.
Steven Wright is a clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, where he co-directs the Wisconsin Innocence Project. From 2007-2012 he served as a trial attorney in the Voting Section of the United States Department of Justice. He has written numerous essays about race, criminal justice, and election law for the New York Review of Books. The Coyotes of Carthage is his first novel.

Black History Month at Other Madison Libraries

MidWeek Matinee: Shaft
Wednesday, Jan 29, 1:30-3:30pm - Alicia Ashman Library
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher & Richard Roundtree. JJ Shaft, a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family's help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's death. [R, 1hr 51min, Action|Comedy|Crime, 2019]

Pinney Afternoon Book Group Discusses Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2:30-3:30pm - Lake Edge Lutheran Church (4032 Monona Dr.)
The Afternoon Pinney Book Group will host a discussion of Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. New attendees always welcome. 
Synopsis: Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups. 

Cabin Fever Writing Workshop
Thursdays, Feb 6-27, 6:30-8:00pm - Central Library
Looking to be a part of a friendly writing community? Free and open to adult writers of all levels, this winter the Bubbler will be hosting a four-week all-genre workshop. Keep your creative flame alive throughout our darkest months! This class will be instructed by the writer and advocate T. S. Banks. T. S. Banks is disability justice and mental wellness advocate, poet and playwright from Madison, WI. A First Wave Scholar and graduate of UW Madison. He received his BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. T. S. recently launched his own Black, Queer, and Trans led arts company called Loud ‘N UnChained Theater Co., which is also home to LNU Publishing House, LNU Black Theater Festival and a hub of Black Creatives. Banks has published two chapbooks, "Call Me Ill" and "Left". Register online Questions? contact workshop coordinator Aaron Fai at

Book Discussion of Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
Wednesday, Feb 19, 6:00-7:30pm - Hawthorne Library
The culmination of three months’ worth of conversations between Hurston and Cudjo Lewis, née Oluale Kossola, the last living survivor of the transatlantic slave trade. In 1860, at the age of 19, Kossola was kidnapped and taken to the barracoons (barracks) Though the slave trade in the United States was officially outlawed in 1808, Kossola and about 110 others were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama, on Captain William Foster’s ship Clotilda. Less than five years after landing in Alabama, emancipation arrived as the Confederate army surrendered in Virginia. Once he’d saved enough money to buy a land parcel, Kossola founded Africatown, Alabama, an isolated community of former slaves that sought to preserve their roots and culture. His story, as told by Hurston, illuminates the alienating and lonesome existence of freed slaves during Reconstruction.

Pinney Evening Book Group Discusses We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Tuesday, Feb 25, 7:00-8:00pm - Lake Edge Lutheran Church (4032 Monona Dr.)
The Pinney Book Group hosts a discussion of We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. New attendees always welcome. 
Synopsis: In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. (from the publisher)

Goodman South Book Club Discusses Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Saturday, Mar 21, 1:30-3:00pm - Goodman South Madison Library
This celebrated, unforgettable first novel ("A bright, big-hearted demonstration of female spirit." The Guardian), shortlisted for the prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction and set in Nigeria, gives voice to both husband and wife as they tell the story of their marriage--and the forces that threaten to tear it apart. Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does--but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.


Black History Month or Related Events in the Greater Madison Community*

*this is not a complete list.  Please also check event calendars for Madison365UMOJA, Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, and UW-Madison

Black Business Awards Dinner
February 20, 5-9pm - Madison College

Black History Education Conference
February 21-22, 2020 - Overture Center, Madison Concourse Hotel, Wisconsin Historical Society & Edgewood College

Wisconsin Historical Museum Black History Month Open House
February 21 - Wisconsin Historical Society

Public Film Viewing: Harriet
February 28, 7-10pm - Monona Terrace
In celebration of Black History Month, the City of Madison Department of Civil Rights and Monona Terrace present the film, HARRIET. Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity, freed hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children and changed the course of history. The event is free and open to the public. There will be a short QnA discussion following the film. Seating is available subject to venue capacity and is available on a first come first serve basis. Parking is available in the state owned ramp attached to Monona Terrace. There is a flat rate of $5 after 5 p.m.  Doors open at 7 p.m.


Books & Resources