Over the past year, there has been a lot of discussion of revolution, from Tahrir Square in Cairo to our own Occupy Wall Street demonstrations here in New York City. But how much do you know about the earlier uprisings that transformed the Americas-the revolutions that brought Blacks to power in Haiti and transformed a group of colonies into an ongoing experiment in democracy? In a series of lectures, events and discussions, the New York Historical Society, now back home in its wonderfully renovated headquarters, will explore this topic throughout the month of January.

“Heart of Haiti: Music and Spoken Word”, Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m., is a free event celebrating the spoken and musical contributions of Haiti and its most radical of revolutions. For more than a decade at the end of the 18th century, Haitians of all races, but especially Black slaves, fought against their French colonial masters and wrested control of their land, terrifying many white Americans and inspiring generations of Black Americans with the idea that they could not simply fight back but win.

The evening will feature music by Tiga Jean-Baptiste & Tchaka and spoken word performances by Millery Polyne and Gina Athena Ulysse.

The concert precedes a conference taking place Saturday, Jan. 21, titled “The Age of Revolution: A Whole History.” The daylong event ($48; members $24) will begin with a keynote address by Laurent Dubois, the Marcello Lotti professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University, director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies and co-director of the Haiti laboratory of the Franklin Humanities Institute.

He will explore the contribution the Haitian Revolution made to the concept of human rights. Later in the day, noted historians will explore the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean during the revolutionary era. The day will conclude with a provocatively titled panel, “How Empires End.”

In addition to exploring the age of revolution, the Historical Society will host several other public events including “The Money Trust” on Jan. 18 featuring James Grant, Paul Gigot and Richard Sylla. Given the current debate over the role banks and other financial institutions should play in our society, this exploration of an early-20th-century congressional investigation into the world of New York’s banks is especially timely.

Being informed has to be about more than just reading the headlines. Engaging in the debates of the day and learning how our common history has shaped our present is an essential ingredient in participatory democracy.

The New York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West between 77th and 78th streets. For tickets and more information, call (212) 873-3400 or visit www.nyhistory.org.