National Black Family Reunion Celebration

National Black Family Reunion Celebration

Date Observed: Second weekend in September
Location: Washington, D.C.

The National Black Family Reunion Celebration is a two-day festival held each September on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., the celebration is intended as a reunion for all African-American families and highlights their historic strengths and values.

Historical Background

During the 1980s, media attention increasingly focused on the black family as "disappearing" and "disintegrating." A 1986 CBS documentary by Bill Moyer, for example, was titled The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America. After viewing that film, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, civil rights activist and chair of the National Council of Negro Women, decided to organize a cultural festival that would nourish and support AfricanAmerican families.

Creation of the Observance

Dr. Height met with Washington, D.C., officials to discuss her idea - a complex of pavilions providing information on education, health care, and economic empowerment as well as live entertainment. The officials were not enthusiastic at first and told her she could have a tent in a park. But Height accomplished her vision with the first Black Family Reunion Celebration in 1986.


During the two-day reunion on the Mall, more than 15 booths and tents offer a mix of information and musical performances. Attendees can get free health screenings, listen to local musicians, learn about job opportunities, or shop at an international arts and crafts marketplace. Soul food, Caribbean food, and other types of food are available from vendors.

Throughout the weekend, a variety of celebrities make special appearances. Rhythm and blues and other musicians entertain, and there is a gospel concert.

Other cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles also have held reunions. Cincinnati, Ohio, holds a regional Midwest reunion each year, and in Rockford, Illinois, the 12th annual Black Family Reunion Celebration was held in 2005. The one-day Rockford event takes place in August and is sponsored by the Rockford Section of the National Council of Negro Women, with people attending from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Washington, D.C., remains the center for the National Black Family Reunion Celebration.

Contact and Web Site

National Council of Negro Women, Inc. 633 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20004 202-737-0120

Further Reading

Chambers, Melanie. "The History of the Black Family Reunion." The Hilltop-Metro (Howard University, Washington, DC), September 6, 2005. Height, Dorothy I. Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003. National Council of Negro Women. The Black Family Reunion Cookbook: Recipes and Food Memories from the National Council of Negro Women . New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1993.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007
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