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Arts & Cultural Events and New Guide Observe Wilmington’s African-American Heritage

February 10, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

 Wilmington, North Carolina is among the most historically significant African-American regions in the United States. African-American ancestry is traced back to the 1700’s, and although much important history left no visible landmark, several historical sites still exist, such as the Cape Fear MuseumBellamy Mansion, and Thalian Hall.

The City of Wilmington, in partnership with the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts, recently published an African American Heritage Guide that includes these and other religious, educational, social and cultural sites. The guide’s 37 entries include the City’s 1898 Memorial, churches, cemeteries, and historical markers such as the U.S. Colored Troops highway marker at the Wilmington National Cemetery and Orange Street Landing at Cape Fear (a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site). Free copies of the 34-page Wilmington African American Heritage Guide are available at Visitor Information Centers in Wilmington and online (opens PDF file). During the month of February, festivals and special events celebrate Black History Month. Other events that commemorate African-American heritage take place throughout the year.

Here’s a sampling of events during February, which is nationally designated as Black History Month:

February 1-March 14: Exhibition – Imaging Justice: The Wilmington 10 Story. A visual art exhibition of selected works submitted by students and community members that depict the stories of the Wilmington 10 and their long journey from wrongful convictions in 1971 to their pardon by the Governor of North Carolina in 2012. Sponsored by the UNCW Upperman African American Cultural Center and Dept. of Art & Art History. Warwick Center Lobby Gallery, UNCW, Wilmington.

Feb. 6-9: “Big River.” Thur.-Sat. 8pm; Sun. 3pm. The Thalian Association presents this beautiful, seven-time Tony Award-winning musical. Twain’s timeless classic sweeps us down the Mighty Mississippi River as the irrepressible Huck Finn helps his friend, Jim, a slave, reach freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Admission charge. Thalian Hall Main Stage, Wilmington. 910-632-2285 or 800-523-2820;

Feb. 8: Wso Concert: A Change is Gonna Come. 8pm. Explore the history of the Civil Rights era through music and songs with readings from Dr. Martin Luther King’s work. Joining the Wilmington Symphony for this 50th Anniversary musical celebration of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights bill is the Williston Alumni Community Choir, directed by Marva Robinson. Also features winners of the 37th Annual Richard R. Deas Student Concerto Competition. Admission charge. UNCW Kenan Auditorium, Wilmington. 910-962-3500;

Feb. 8-9: 9th Annual Civil War Living History Weekend. Sat.: 10am-5pm (galleries open until 7pm) & Sun.: 10am-2pm (museum open until 5pm). The living history program provides a look into life during the Civil War with a reenactment (2pm Sat.; 1pm Sun.), encampments, demonstrations, and guided Battle Trail tours. To commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Forks Road in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of the war’s end, this year’s theme, “Forks Road…The Fall of Wilmington” highlights this significant battle which is re-enacted both days by uniformed Union, U.S. Colored Troop and Confederate re-enactors who provide a glimpse into the camp life of soldiers in the late 1800s. The site is where Major General Robert F. Hoke made his last stand against Union soldiers comprised primarily of U.S. Colored Troops. This significant skirmish on February 20, 1865 followed the fall of Fort Fisher, and led to the fall of Wilmington and the final surrender by the Confederate armies. The weekend also includes special kids programming, battery trail tours, artillery drills, guest speakers, period art and music. Most events free; donations welcome. Admission charge for Saturday night concert. Cameron Art Museum, 910-395-5999;


Feb. 13-16; 20-23: Theatre – We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Thurs/Fri/Sat 8pm; Sun. 2pm. Cultural Arts Center, Mainstage, UNCW. 910-962-3500;

Feb 15: Concert – The Platters. 7pm-9pm. The Platters became a 1950s musical phenomenon as the first black Doo-wop group to ever have a number one hit ‘pop’ record as well as the first to cross racial barriers on the concert circuit. Hotel/concert packages available. Lee Ballroom, Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach. 910-256-2251;

Feb. 18: Lecture – Eyewitness Reflections on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela. 4pm-6pm. UNCW, Watson EB 162.

Feb. 22: Intercultural Festival. 10am-2pm. A celebration of the rich diversity of cultures found within UNCW and the Wilmington community, UNCW’s Intercultural Festival features international foods, special exhibits, music and dance performances. Free. UNCW- Burney Center, Wilmington. 910-962-3685;

Feb. 22: Black History Quiz Bowl. 2pm-4pm. UNCW Fisher Student Center, Lumina Theater. 910-962-3500;

Feb. 22: Black History Month Lecture. 12:30pm-2: 30pm. Randall Library Auditorium, UNCW. 910-962-3760;

Feb. 26: Carolina Chocolate Drops. 8pm. For one night only, come see the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their roots and style are unique, gathering inspiration from the 1920 African-American Southern lifestyle and musical instruments. Admission charge; tickets required. Brooklyn Arts Center, Wilmington. 

Ongoing Through May 15: Exhibition – Observing Africa: The Life & Career of Stuart Marks. Explores Africa through the eyes of renowned anthropologist Stuart Marks. Free. Randall Library, UNCW. 910-962-3760;

Ongoing: Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts. Designed with Greek Revival and Italianate styling, this 22-room house was constructed with the labor of both enslaved skilled carpenters, and local, freed black artisans. On the northeast corner of the lot stands the original brick slave quarters, which has been recently restored and is among the most well preserved urban slave quarters in the country. Admission charge. Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington. 910-251-3700;

Ongoing: Cape Fear Museum of History & Science. Exhibits trace African-American history in the Cape Fear region from the 1700s to 20th century. Explore the development and desegregation of New Hanover County schools through images, artifacts, personal recollections. These stories provide insight into our community’s history. Admission charge. Cape Fear Museum of History & Science, Wilmington. 910-798-4350;

Coming In March:

March 13-16: 13th Annual North Carolina Black Film Festival. This 4-day juried and invitational competition offers screenings of independent films by African-American filmmakers with guest artists, panel discussions, workshops, and more. Genres include features, shorts, animation, and documentary films. Sponsored by the Black Arts Alliance. Admission charge. Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, Wilmington. 910-612-7832;

The coast is close. Wilmington, N.C.’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina BeachKure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach is a year-round coastal destination that’s a convenient drive from Raleigh via I-40 and Charlotte via US 74. Events often change without notice; please confirm details with event organizers. For visitor information, visit, where you’ll also find a complete Event Calendar. To request a free Official Visitors Guide call 1-866-266-9690 or email

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