Every February we celebrate Black History Month as a way to honor the history, achievements, and legacies of Black Americans. The month is an important time to recognize the tremendous contributions African Americans’ have had in our country and Commonwealth throughout history.

The theme for Black History Month 2024 is African Americans and the Arts. African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been invaluable.

There are many ways to recognize Black History Month in Pennsylvania. Take time to read about influential African Americans from Pennsylvania who shaped history by going to your local library or bookstore. Participate in cultural celebrations all across the state. Food is culture. Share a Caribbean, African or traditional African American recipe.

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of many people who contributed greatly to their respective fields in the arts like Julian Francis Abele, who was the first Black graduate of Penn's architecture school in 1902. He is said to have designed over 400 buildings in his time including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Land Title Building, Harvard University's Widener Memorial Library and much of Duke University's campus. Or Clara Ward, born in Philadelphia, who was one of the greatest gospel soloists in music history. Considered a mentor to singers like Aretha Franklin, Ward was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977.

For more information on this year’s Black History Month theme, visit the website for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Here are some additional African Americans in the arts who were born in Pennsylvania: