February is Black History Month, and there are numerous events and activities in Wichita to help celebrate the history and culture of Black Americans.

A woman looks at artifacts on display at the Kansas African American Museum

Explore the Kansas African American Museum

The Kansas African American Museum (TKAAM) is housed in the former Calvary Baptist Church, once the cornerstone of Wichita’s vibrant Black community. The museum is one stop on the Kansas African American History Trail and is considered the preeminent home of Kansas African American history and artifacts.

In addition to permanent exhibitions, “A Tribute to Samella Lewis” is on display through Black History Month. This exhibit pays tribute to the late Dr. Samella Lewis, a major benefactor and supporter of the museum. A nationally known artist and art historian, Lewis gifted to TKAAM a portion of her private collection of paintings and sculptures as well as her own work.

The museum’s Senior Wednesday event on Jan. 31 will feature Dr. Bernard Moore and Dr. Danya Jones Burks. From 10 to 11:30 a.m., they will share information about the genealogical research behind the book, “Tal Jones: A Black Oil Legacy.”

An image of Junius Groves is projected onto the exterior of Exploration Place to honor Black History Month

Go on a Journey at Exploration Place

In collaboration with TKAAM for the third year, Exploration Place will be featuring a large-scale outdoor exhibit during Black History Month, “Celebrating African American Scientists.” Each night during February, Exploration Place will honor African American scientists by projecting giant portraits onto the side of its iconic island building. The display will be freely viewable from the path along the Arkansas River. Admission is not required to view the display from the Exploration Place promenade.

Make it an evening and stay to watch the nightly Ring of Fire lighting at the Keeper of the Plains, which lights at 7 p.m. during winter months. Additionally, visitors can see the display from inside Exploration Place on Thursday nights, when the museum is open until 8 p.m.

Rudy Love Jr. sings during a performance in Wichita

Discover the sounds of talented, local musicians

Delight in the musical sounds of local, Black musicians at various venues across the city. One you have to hear for yourself is Rudy Love, Jr. Son of legendary bluesman Rudy Love, his music defies genres and forms a connection with audiences. You can find Rudy on stage locally at venues like Mort’s Martini & Cigar BarWAVE, and the Brickyard. Head over to his Facebook page to keep tabs on where he is performing.

Another Black artist worth seeking out in Wichita is Injoy Fountain. You might remember her from “The Voice” or maybe you saw her when she was on tour with Postmodern Jukebox. Locally, she brings her musical talent to a variety of venues like Chicken N Pickle and has also performed in Music Theatre Wichita and Roxy’s Downtown productions. On Tuesdays, join her for karaoke at Vorshay’s Cocktail Lounge.

BHM blog_McAdams ParkPictured above is a Jackie Robinson statue that once stood at McAdams Park but was recently stolen and destroyed. This park is known for recognizing influential Black Wichitans. The statue of Jackie Robinson was unveiled at McAdams Park in 2021 and several facilities in the park are named after community standouts, including the Antoine Carr basketball courts, the Barry Sanders football field, and the Charles McAfee swimming pool.

League 42, named in honor of the great Jackie Robinson, the first African American in Major League Baseball, is a youth baseball league comprised primarily of urban children ages 5 to 14. The park is home to the League where they play their games. The organization is leading efforts to raise funds via GoFundMe or PayPal to replace the beloved statue in the community. 

An exhibit honoring Black aviators is displayed at Kansas Aviation Museum

Learn about Black aviators at the Kansas Aviation Museum

As a result of its first capital campaign in more than a decade, the Kansas Aviation Museum recently added three new exhibits, one of which is a reimagined Black aviators display that was renamed the Rip Gooch Black Aviators exhibit. Ulysses Lee “Rip” Gooch was a retired Kansas state senator and former Wichita City Council member whose passion for flight and dedication to civil rights helped pave the way for Black leaders in the aviation industry. See it on display in addition to the museum’s other permanent exhibits.

Artwork created by Black artists sits on display at CityArts

Support African American art and artists

Now through Feb. 25, CityArts is featuring the “Art That Touches Your Heart” Community and National Art Exhibit, a special annual traveling exhibit that works with artists in Wichita and beyond to bring Black art to the Midwest. The exhibit provides education about Black History Month and is designed to celebrate Black artists from Wichita and across the country. For 10 years, this charitable art show was held at Wichita State University and is being held at CityArts for the fourth time in conjunction with Black History Month. Admission is free.

Poetry lovers will delight in Poetry Night at Simply Sangria, a winery specializing in the blending and bottling of premium sangrias, on Feb. 15. Seating is limited for this night of food, fun, wine, and amazing poets, so call ahead to RSVP is recommended.

Celebrating Wichita's Black History at the library

Gain insight about Black Wichita through the Wichita Public Library

Wichita’s largest library facility, the Advanced Learning Center, is presenting a series of programs in February to recognize Black History Month and to highlight the achievements of people and events that have shaped Wichita’s history.

  • Feb. 1 – Black Educators: Janice Burdine Thacker, artist, retired educator, and founder of non-profit organizations Art That Touches Your Heart and the Black Educators Hall of Fame, will present a talk about the history of Black educators in Wichita.
  • Feb. 8 – The Wichita African American Business History Project: Robert Weems, Jr, Professor of Business History at Wichita State University, will share some of the stories from his oral history project, The Wichita African American Business History Project, which contains an audio interview, artifacts, historical documents and more.
  • Feb. 9 – Big Idea: The Women of Brown: This presentation will shine a light on the stories of 12 Black women who were plaintiffs in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
  • Feb. 14 – Senior Wednesday: Children of the Promised Land: Nicodemus, a small, unincorporated town in Kansas, is the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period. This pictorial history explores the unique experience of mothers and their children in Nicodemus after slavery, some of whom were the first members of their families born free. 
  • Feb. 15 – African American Journalism: Bonita Gooch, editor-in-chief of The Community Voice, the leading publication for African American communities in Kansas, will present a talk about the role of African American newspapers in Wichita.
  • Feb. 22 – Black Aviators: Staff from the Kansas Aviation Museum will share many of the achievements of notable Black Aviators from Kansas and talk about The Rip Gooch Black Aviators Exhibit.
  • Feb. 29 – Kansas African American Trailblazers Who Shaped Our History: Over the years, TKAAM has honored and celebrated African Americans who have made significant contributions to our society. Denise Sherman, executive director at The Kansas African American Museum, will share some of the stories of these amazing individuals and why we continue to celebrate them.

BHM blog_KSHOF

Visit the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame

Learn about exceptional coaches and athletes from Kansas, including inductees Willie Jeffries, the first African American head football coach at the NCAA Division 1 level; NFL great Barry Sanders; and basketball star Lynette Woodard, who became the first female Harlem Globetrotter. To visit the exhibits, request an appointment by calling the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

BHM blog_Redbud Trail

Go on outdoor adventures at local parks, trails

Several Wichita parks honor notable Black leaders, celebrities, and more. Downtown Wichita’s Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park is named for Chester I. Lewis, the late prominent local Civil Rights leader who served on the legal team that argued the landmark 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case before the Supreme Court.

Funding is being raised for renovations to Finlay Ross Park, also located in downtown Wichita, which will provide the history and artifacts of the many African Americans who made an impact in the community. It will also be the new home of a bronze sculpture immortalizing the efforts of the students who participated in the 1958 Dockum Drug Store Sit-In.

Wichita’s Black history is showcased along the Redbud Trail. Approximately 11 miles of this biking and walking trail is located within the city. It has three rest areas that tell the story of the people who live in nearby neighborhoods with art and history-filled installations at 9th & Hillside, 13th & Roosevelt, and 17th & Oliver. The entire trail spans two counties and is more than 15 miles, providing the perfect opportunity for those who want to mix culture with an outdoor challenge.

While not a park, you can visit a memorial for Hattie McDaniel, famed actress from “Gone with the Wind” who was born in Wichita, across from her childhood home, located at 925 N. Wichita Street.

Learn more about Black history in Wichita, read stories about Black leaders in the Heart of the Country, and more with this guide to Black Wichita.