8 Ways to Celebrate Black History at The Carolina Theatre

January 29, 2024 by Sandy Lerebours

Through historic exhibits, educational arts programming, and special events, the Carolina Theatre provides a variety of ways to celebrate Black history all year long and learn about the significant cultural contributions of Black leaders to Durham and the rest of the world.  

Visit “Confronting Change”

Learn about how the Carolina Theatre was at the center of the Civil Rights Movement in Durham by visiting the theater’s “Confronting Change” exhibit. The “Confronting Change” exhibit was created in 2014 to acknowledge the role the theater played in the movement and to honor those who took part in desegregating the theater. The exhibit includes photos and bios of the people involved in desegregating the theater, newspaper features on the events that took place, and replicas of the separate ticketing window that Black patrons had to use before the theater was integrated.

While Black History Month is the perfect time to visit, the exhibit is open year-round. Self-guided tours of the “Confronting Change” exhibit are open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Guided tours are also available for groups of 25 or more when arranged in advance. All tours are free. To learn more about touring the Carolina Theatre’s “Confronting Change” exhibit please visit carolinatheatre.org.

A large mural displays notable Black figures and moments in history.

Check out local murals 

Murals vibrantly adorn the streets of Durham. Not only do they beautify our environment, but they also tell stories about the history of our city. Take the opportunity to visit murals around the city that proudly display the faces of some of Durham’s Black cultural leaders. Follow Discover Durham’s Black History and Culture Mural Guide, starting with the Durham Civil Rights Mural (pictured above), located on the back of the Carolina Theatre.

February One screening 

The Carolina Theatre will offer a free screening of the documentary “February One” for the general public on the first of February. This film depicts Ezell Blair, David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil—the “Greensboro Four”—as they began a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina. This demonstration is considered one of the pivotal moments in the American civil rights movement. In the film, protesters recount how the idea for the sit-in grew out of their late-night talks in campus dorms, and how the decision to act changed their lives and history forever.

Step Afrika!

Step Afrika! comes to the Carolina Theatre on February 9. Founded in 1944 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Their performances blend percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities; traditional West and Southern African dances; and an array of contemporary dance styles into a cohesive, compelling artistic experience. Performances are much more than dance shows; they integrate songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation. Be prepared to be wowed by the unique blend of technique, agility, and pure energy from Step Afrika!

Confronting Change 10th Anniversary Celebration

The Carolina Theatre of Durham celebrates the 10th anniversary of its “Confronting Change” exhibit with a free event open to the public on April 17. The “Confronting Change” exhibit is dedicated to the civil rights movement in Durham and the protestors who advocated for the desegregation of the Carolina Theatre. The April 17th event will feature a short documentary screening about the theater’s civil rights history, a reception, and a panel discussion by the original protestors.


The Magic of African Rhythm

The Magic of African Rhythm comes to the Carolina Theatre on April 20 as part of our Family Saturday Series, which provides high-quality, affordable, family-friendly programming one Saturday a month. The Magic of African Rhythm performance showcases the vibrancy of Africa’s many rhythms on the Dundun, Sangban, and Kenkeni drums. Drums, dance, costumes, song, and storytelling carry audiences across the colorful spectrum of the entire continent of Africa, culminating with audience members on stage for a jubilant celebration!

Show Way The Musical 

A performance of “Show Way the Musical” for students will take place on April 23 as part of our Arts Discovery Education Series. Based on Jacquelin Woodson’s children’s book by the same name, “Show Way the Musical” tells the story of seven generations of an African American family in the United States. The play follows the stitches of a family’s lineage starting with the protagonist Soonie’s enslaved great-grandma who made a quilt called a Show Way to show enslaved people the way to freedom. As each generation passes, the Show Way shines a light on the past and paves a road to the future, stitching together possibility and promise.

Bailes Afro Latinos 

On May 11, Bailes Afro Latinos comes to the Carolina Theatre as part of our Family Saturday Series. This performance engages families in a journey through Latin America and the world, exploring a range of popular dances inspired by Afro Latinos such as Cumbia from Colombia; Bachata and Merengue from the Dominican Republic; Chachacha and Son from Cuba; Bomba and Plena from Puerto Rico; and many others. Learn about the influential cultures and musical traditions that helped shape these rhythms and dances.