Black History Month Florence 2019 Events

Black History Month Florence unveils a vibrant African and African-American contribution—both historic and cultural—to the city of the Renaissance.

Kicking off at the end of January, and running until March 3, 2019, the fourth edition offers an opportunity to increase knowledge and explore themes regarding race and identity in Florence.

There are events both in English and Italian in an effort to facilitate conversations across language barriers.  The program aims not only to celebrate diversity across multiple media and varying styles of performance, but also to cultivate cross-cultural dialogues which challenge the prevailing narratives of diasporic and descended African communities.


On the heels of funeral of one of the last of Florence’s WW2 partisans, Silvano Sarti, held on January 27’s Holocaust Memorial Day, a tribute will be held for the Italian-African resistance fighter who gave his name to the unit to which Sarti belonged on February 3.  Sarti was a member of the Sinigagli brigade, which entered Florence behind the retreating German soldiers and ahead of the Allied forces in August 1944.  The unit was christened for Alessandro Sinigalia, born in Fiesole in 1902 of a Jewish native of Mantua in northern Italy and an African American woman who came to Italy with the family she was working for, arriving from St. Louis.

At the head of a small group of partisans, Sinigaglia was killed by the Fascists who remained loyal to Mussolini after his fall from power on Florence’s via de’ Pandolfini.  The Sunday commemoration will take place under the plaque marking the spot, at the corner of via del Crocifisso, starting at 10 am.


On February 2, at the Tesfaye Urgessa exhibition in the Pitti Palace’s Andito degli Angiolini, Urgessa, born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and resident of Stuttgart since 2009, will give an artist’s talk at the show, creating a dialogue with Uffizi director Eike Schmidt and Justin Randolph Thompson, director and co-founder of BHMF.

Post-doc fellow Ingrid Greenfeld of Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, will lead a guided visit of African portraits at the Uffizi Gallery on February 8; reservations required at

Dr. Angelica Pesarini, lecturer in Social and Cultural Analysis at Florence’s New York University, will give a talk in English entitled “Africa’s Delivery Room: Dynamics of Race, Gender and Migration in the Italian Political Discourse,” using some recent news events as a starting point.

The Swiss Evangelical Cemetery (known as the ‘English Cemetery’) at Piazzale Donatello will be the setting for a tour in English led by Julia Bolton Holloway (February 22, 11:30 am) on the theme of how 19th century anti-slave activists found a welcome home in 19th century Florence.

Among the foreigners who are buried at the cemetery is Elizabeth Barrett Browning (England 1806 – Florence 1861).  The poet opened her circle and her home to author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe during the writer’s 1860 visit to Florence.  Beecher’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” published in 1852, an incisive and influential statement on the condition of black slaves in the U.S., was widely popular at home and in Europe.


As a special preview of Prato’s Met Jazz Festival, Pinocchio Jazz Club in Florence presents a concert “Eternal Love” with the Roberto Ottaviano Quartet showcasing Ottaviano on sax and pianist Giorgio Pacorig, Giovanni Maier on bass and drummer Zeno de Rossi.  This tribute to Africa; its culture, people and music, takes the audience on an expedition for the senses with compositions by John Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Don Cherry and others (Saturday, February 2, 10 pm, Pinocchio Jazz Club, viale Giannotti 13).

Eclectic and charismatic musician Brandon Ross, who has worked with such legends as Don Byron Archie Shepp and Bill Frisell, will headline a concert at the Sala Vanni, piazza del Carmine on February 9 (9:15 pm) together with jazz player Stomu Takeishi.


A rehearsal of “Down by the Riverside” (which premieres on March 5) presented by CO.R.PI, an intercultural performing arts groups comprising several migrants and refugees, will be open to the public at the Methodist Church, via de’ Benci 9 on February 5 at 9 pm.

There will be hip-hop and other African-influenced dance on stage at the Student Hotel, via Spartaco Lavagnini 70, on February 9 at 9 pm.


A 2019 Oscar contender for best picture and actor (Viggo Mortenson) “The Green Book,” will screen at the Odeon Cinema (piazza Strozzi) from February 11 – 17.  Inspired by a true story, the movie’s plot focuses on an African-American classical pianist and his Italian-American driver on leave from his job as a club bouncer, touring with concert dates through the Deep South. The pair look for tips in “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guide on traveling in racially segregated states.

The Kibaka African Film Festival will inaugurate at Cinema La Compagnia (via Cavour) on February 12.

“It Was Said It Was Not Racism: Italy after Macerata,” will be shown at ISI, Lungarno delle Grazie 22 on February 18 at 6 pm with an accompanying talk.


The moving images of “We are all Migrants,” which unites the experiences of historic Italian immigrants with today’s migrants who likewise leave their native country, will open at the Giorgio La Pira center (via de’ Pescioni 3) on February 14 at 6 pm.  (rosanna cirigliano)