Washington Capitalizes on February's Black History Month

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WASHINGTON -- Few cities are as well positioned as Washington to capitalize on the tourism potential of Black History Month, which is celebrated during February.

Benjamin Banneker, a black engineer and astronomer, became the key designer of the city in the 1790s after the original architect, Pierre L'Enfant, was fired by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson.

Years later, Washington became a focal point of the underground railroad and the civil rights movement.

It was home to abolitionist Frederick Douglass, educator Mary McLeod Bethune and jazz musician Duke Ellington.

Today it is home to some of the best-known African-American sites in the U.S.

So it is no surprise that Washington's museums, tour operators and hotels are going all out to promote Black History Month.

In addition, the Washington Convention and Visitors Association published a new African-American Historical Attractions Guide featuring information about African-American historical sites, heritage tours, churches and galleries.

The free guide can be obtained by calling the WCVA at (202) 789-7000.

During the month of February, Tourmobile Sightseeing is offering a daily three-hour tour of Cedar Hill, Douglass' former home.

It is one of the best ways to get a feel of African-American life in the 19th century, as a Tourmobile narrator re-creates the city of Washington and tells of Douglass' struggle for the rights of women and minorities.

The tour departs at noon each day from the Washington Monument and includes other sites important to African-Americans such as the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial, Lincoln Park and Arlington National Cemetery.

For additional information about the tour, call (202) 554-5100.

Preformed groups of 20 or more looking for African-American heritage tours of Washington can call Capital Entertainment Services at (202) 636-9203.

Among other special events taking place this month is a 30-minute tour called Slave Life at Mount Vernon at the former home of George Washington.

The tour outlines the lives and contributions of the slaves who built the plantation.

For details, call (703) 780-2000.

The Capital Children's Museum is hosting a monthlong African-American Animators Film Festival, featuring the works of award-winning animators Willie Moore and Carlos T. Williams.

For details, call (202) 675-4120.

Among the exhibits at Smithsonian Institution museums is a unique collection of lithographs of the African-American performer Josephine Baker at the National Portrait Gallery.

The National Museum of African Art is featuring the visually compelling Adinkra cloth that once belonged to Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I, the king of the Asante nation in what is now Ghana from 1888 to 1896.

The Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum is displaying a new exhibit about reggae legend Bob Marley.

For information on Smithsonian exhibits, call (202) 357-2700.

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