02/04/2013 05:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Black History Month: Film, Jazz, Art and Heritage in New York

Recognizing history isn't just remembering old lessons, but hearing new stories for the first time. During Black History Month in February, provocative talks, exhibits and exciting performances take a look at black leaders, activists, artists, authors and innovators who have made their mark in American history.

It wasn't until a year after the country's bicentennial that Americans were shaken awake to the human cost of slavery through Roots, the miniseries that was broadcast eight consecutive nights on national television. "Roots schooled us," says LeVar Burton, who starred as the young Kunta Kinte, and it remains one of the most-watched programs in television history. Burton, Ben Vereen, Leslie Uggams and Louis Gosset Jr. will speak at the Museum of Moving Image on Monday, Feb. 4 on "Making Roots, and Making TV History."

Many recognize the names and work of Dizzy Gillespie, Andy Kirk, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington -- but do you know the jazz musician and composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-1881), who wrote music for these band leader during her five-decade career? Williams will literally be heard at a listening session and talk Feb. 12 at the National Jazz Museum (part of Black History Month: The Women) and the jazz concert, the Mary Lou Williams Celebration on Feb. 20 at Arts at The Park (Park Avenue Christian Church).

Art lovers can get an eyeful of work of the African diaspora this month.

Blues for Smoke, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, shows artists such as David Hammons, Zoe Leonard and Jean-Michel Basquiat alongside the music of jazz, blues and hip-hop legends.

Ashé to Amen: African-Americans and Biblical Imagery is on view at the The Museum of Biblical Art.

Photographer and MacArthur Fellow Camilo José Vergara has been traveling across the United States for more than 30 years photographing Martin Luther King murals -- take a trip through time and America with Vergara's photographs in The Dream Continues at the New-York Historical Society.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum of Art features 30 wood and metal sculptures by the contemporary Ghanaian artist based in Nigeria.

Revisiting known history is the Words are Freedom series at the Brooklyn Public Library. Each Sunday in February, take a look at notable American slaves and their stories, from Nat Turner to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

These events are just a small selection from NYC-ARTS Black History Month 2013, a regularly updated collection of more than 30 events and organizations in New York City that continue the tradition of Black History Month, founded in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson.