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Are you interested in learning more about Black history and culture in the United States? Read on to see where you can visit to learn more!
With the recent outcry of racial injustice in the United States, many have come to learn that the American education system has failed to accurately educate the public about the experience of Black individuals in the United States from the time of colonial expansion to the present day. Thanks to the efforts of reputable museums and historic sites, Americans can learn more about true Black history in the United States. These museums go beyond what is normally taught and provide an accurate account of the Black community’s experiences and history in the United States.
Thanks to the contributions of travel bloggers around the globe, here is a list of the best museums and historic sites that accurately represent and interpret Black history and culture in the United States.
Best Places to Learn about Black History and Culture in the United States
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Park
The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Park tells the story of the black students who became known as the Little Rock Nine, and their stand against school segregation in the late 1950s through very personal and poignant multimedia exhibits. It is an essential stop when visiting Little Rock, or when traveling to learn about the modern fight for equality in the US.
Many of us have seen news footage of those days in the fall of 1957, and been appalled at the behavior of the white community, and admired the incredible courage of the black school children. We may think of it as a few terrible days in United States history, but the historic park shows us that this fight for equality was far more than a few days publicized by the media. These 9 students faced hatred and harassment throughout their years at Central High.
The power of the historic park comes from the stories of the 9 young people, in their own words and voices, and the graphic images of their experiences. It is hard to imagine facing such a mob, even with soldiers at your back. Most of us will never have a person who appears kind spit in our face, have chili dumped on our heads at school lunch, or be scalded in the showers after gym class, for nothing other than being black. The 9 teenagers endured far more than this, to exercise their right to go to public school. Their lives were forever changed, as they changed the path of the country.
The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Park Visitor Center is open from 9:00 to 4:30 every day. The high school still hosts students, and may only be visited by guided ranger tours, arranged through the visitor center. The entrance is free.
Contributed by Roxanna of Gypsy with a Day Job
Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site
The Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site is located on the outskirts of Greenwood, South Carolina–a well-maintained town featuring the widest Main Street east of the Mississippi. This peaceful spot honors Dr. Mays, who was an accomplished scholar and both a former dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, as well as an advisor to three presidents–Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. This influential man learned about non-violence from Mahatma Gandhi, became the impetus for the civil rights movement, and gave the eulogy at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral. Fragrant with lilac bushes and alive with twittering birds, this historical site holds two structures that were moved here from nearby locations–the modest wood cottage where Dr. Mays was born in 1894, and a 1900s one-room schoolhouse built especially for African-American children. Though neither structure holds many original furnishings, both are atmospherically appointed. A newly-built faux barn holds a museum featuring a collection of photos and memorabilia that provide information about Dr. Mays and about African American life in this area back in time. Tours are available by appointment on weekends, sometimes with the well-spoken site director, Christopher B. Thomas.
Contributed by Carole of Travels with Carole. Follow along with her adventures on her Youtube Channel!
Harriet Tubman Home National Historic Park
The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and home in Auburn, New York provides an enlightening walk through history. A tour of the museum and the surrounding buildings highlights not only a Black History icon, but also the work she did later in life that is often left out of the history books.
Harriet Tubman is well known for helping enslaved people escape to freedom. She is somewhat known for leading troops in the Civil War. What many people never learn about her is that after the Civil War she made it her mission to create a home for the elderly.
Harriet Tubman chose to move to Auburn with her family a few years before the Civil War started, and bought the land from Senator William Seward who she knew through her work on the Underground Railroad. This is where she spent the last years of her life and, with the help of the AME Zion church, established her home for the elderly. Visitors of all ages will enjoy the small museum, and the visit includes a ranger led tour of the grounds and the home, and an oral history presentation on Ms. Tubman’s life. This experience delves much further into history than our textbooks, so it makes for a great educational trip.
If a visit to the Harriet Tubman Home seems out of the way, there are several other historically significant spots nearby, including the Seward Home and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in nearby Seneca Falls.
The Harriet Tubman Home is open Tuesday through Saturday and the tour costs about $7.
Contributed by Julie Espinosa of Family~Travel~Lifestyle
Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park & Museum
One of the best museums for learning about black history and culture is the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park & Museum. It’s located on Florida’s east coast in the town of Mims, just north of Titusville. This museum focuses on the lives of Harry and Harriette Moore, the leading civil rights activists in Florida and the country during the 1930s and 40s.
The museum has historic pieces and memorabilia, films, and interactive exhibits. Tours are given daily upon request, although it is recommended you call ahead if you’re arriving with a big group. During the tour, the early history of the Civil Rights Movement is discussed, but current civil and human rights are examined as well.
Outside of the museum is a furnished replica of the Moore’s home. It’s a replica because the original house was bombed on the morning of Christmas day in 1951, killing both Harry and Harriette. Their struggle for equality was not in vain, however. Before his death, Harry Moore was a mentor to young Martin Luther King Jr. and he was instrumental in among other things, helping to register over 100,000 black voters.
Harry and Harriette were very vocal against racial violence, lynching, and discrimination in law enforcement and the justice system. Today the museum and their homestand as a reminder of their efforts to end inequality.
Contributed by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey. Follow along with her on Instagram
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center overlooks the Ohio River: the very river that formerly enslaved people needed to cross in order to gain their freedom. The museum, which hosts permanent and traveling exhibits as well as frequent events, shares the stories of these brave individuals and those who aided them. The museum also hosts a permanent exhibit exploring modern-day slavery and inviting visitors to get involved in the continued fight against slavery worldwide.
One of the most moving parts of the museum, set inside a 4 story glass atrium, is the ‘slave pen’ – a wooden barn used during the domestic slave-trade in the US in Mississipi to hold enslaved people before the sale. The pen was moved and rebuilt inside the museum so visitors could stand inside of it and read the names on memorials of the people who were held there.
On the balcony out front of the museum, overlooking the famous Roebling Bridge to KY and the Ohio River itself burns the flame of freedom: an everlasting flame honoring the lives lost and freedom gained on the Underground Railroad.
The museum is open to non-members Thursday-Sunday, from Noon – 5 pm. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $13 for Seniors, and $10.50 for Children over aged 3 (free for children under age 3).
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument was created during the final day of the Obama administration, and it will go on to be a significant part of President Obama’s legacy. Encompassing parts of historic Birmingham including the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park, this part of Birmingham saw much of the most egregious violence Bull Connor and White Birminghamians inflicted on the Black people of Birmingham during the 1960s.
The church became a major focal point of the movement. A stop for many of the most important Black thinkers during the era, it became a site of an immense tragedy when the KKK targeted the church and four little girls were killed when they bombed the building.
While here, you can pay homage to the history as well as learn more by visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute which is located on the corner across the street from Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. This museum holds important artifacts from this era of Birmingham history, including the jail cell from which Martin Luther King Jr. penned his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Visiting the monument is free. If you want a tour of the church, you need to prearrange it with them ahead of time. Museum entry is fifteen dollars, though there are student and other discounts available.
Contributed by Stephanie of History Fangirl
Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters in Savannah, GA
Of all the home tours in Savannah, Georgia, the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters is the one that most accurately conveys the differences in lifestyles between enslavers and the enslaved.
The tour begins with a short orientation, and then guests pass by a wall with the names of enslaved workers engraved into wooden planks as they make their way to tour the original slave quarters for the site. The no-frills area still looks much like it did in the early 19th century when the home was constructed. Next, guests will pass through an impressive garden before entering the elaborate mansion in which the homeowners lived. The opulent living and entertaining spaces for the family sharply contrast with areas such as the working cellar, where enslaved workers spent much of their time. The home was one of the first in the country to feature indoor plumbing (even before the White House had it!), and the original cistern has even been preserved for visitors to view.
Tickets to the museum cost $20, and that also grants ticket holders access to Telfair Academy and Jepson Center for the Arts. You’ll have 7 full days to use the tickets. The tour lasts about one hour, but you can stay in the cellar level much longer to further explore the many artifacts on display from when the home was restored.
*COVID-19 social-distancing methods are currently in place.
Insider tip: The tours often sell out, so if you purchase your ticket online, be sure to stop by the museum early in the morning to check-in. Once you’ve done so, they’ll provide a time slot to return later in the day. After you have that time slot, you’re good to go!
Contributed by Erin Clarkson of Savannah First-Timer’s Guide
This is Erin’s private FB group for people who are planning a trip to Savannah: https://www.facebook.com/groups/savftg
New Orleans Jazz Museum
What the museum is about?
Jazz music was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Its rhythms can be heard in almost every bar and streets of NOLA. Therefore, when exploring this fabulous city, it is worth visiting the New Orleans Jazz Museum to learn about the history of this genre. If you are planning a visit to New Orleans, check out this exciting New Orleans 3 Days Itinerary.
What aspects of black culture does this museum highlight?
Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions in blues and ragtime. In New Orleans, slaves could practice elements of their culture such as voodoo and playing drums and brass instruments. Many early jazz musicians played in the bars and brothels of the red-light district around Basin Street called Storyville in New Orleans. Also, Louis Armstrong started his career in Storyville and found success in Chicago.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum’s collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world. So, you can admire original instruments, pictorial sheet music, photographs, records. You can see Louis Armstrong’s first 1917 disc of the first jazz recording ever made. Moreover, you can listen to original recordings of the most outstanding jazz musicians.
You can take a closer look at trumpets, cornets, trombones, clarinets, pianos and saxophones played by jazz greats such as Bix Beiderbecke, Edward “Kid” Ory, George Lewis, Sidney Bechet, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Why you should visit this museum?
The New Orleans Jazz Museum is something more. You can feel jazz music during your visit in all its forms, and you can learn about black culture. Furthermore, the museum offers dynamic interactive exhibits & musical performances. It is a vibrant music scene.
Adults – $8
Students, senior citizens, active military – $6
Children 6 and under – Free
Tuesday – Sunday: 10AM – 4:30PM
Location: The museum is located in the heart of the city in the French Quarter at 400 Esplanade Ave.
Tips: Current events and concerts you can check on the museum’s website: It is worth booking at least 2 hours to visit.
Contributed by Agnes of the Van Escape
The Whitney Plantation
The Whitney Plantation’s sole purpose is to remember and amplify the voices and experiences of those who had been enslaved. It is considered the first slavery museum in America and it does a great job of honoring all of those who have come before us by remembering their names, re-telling their stories, and ensuring this dark part of American history is never forgotten.
When visiting, you will be able to walk through original slave cabins, the plantation owner’s home from the 1790s, the Antioch Baptist Church, and a memorial honoring the thousands who were forced into labor in the state of Louisiana.
The Whitney Plantation creates a moving experience that confronts you with the harsh reality of slavery and forces you to reflect on the privileges you have been afforded. It also reminds you of the true power you have to create change in this world and how the fight to uplift black bodies is still happening to this day. This is one of the few plantations that solely focuses on the stories of those who had been enslaved, which in a way, allows for a sense of power to be reclaimed for them and for us to carry on their stories.
This museum is located about an hour’s drive from New Orleans and it is recommended to visit via rental car or through booking with a tour group. You can find reliable tour groups by visiting their website here!
With current restrictions, you are able to do a self-guided tour through downloading the “Whitney Plantation” app on your mobile device.
They are currently open Friday through Monday and you must purchase a ticket online beforehand. Admission is as follows:
Child (6-18): $11
Child (Under $6): Free
Seniors (62+): $23
Military/Student Discount: $23
Parish Residents: $15
Contributed by Mariah of Mariah Manibusan. Learn more about visiting New Orleans
Selma, Alabama Interpretive Center
In the shadow of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., is the Selma Interpretive Center. Opened in 2011 and operated by the National Park Services, it’s an informational point for the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
The three-story facility houses a small, yet informative museum highlighting the three Voting Right marches that took place in the city during March 1965: Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday and the last one which reached its final destination — Montgomery. For those visiting Selma to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, this is a great place to start your journey.
There is something to view on each floor and with the film, oral histories, photos, and more, so set aside anywhere between 30-45 minutes for a self-guided tour.
The exhibits spare nothing. They are eye-opening and chilling, especially if you only read about what transpired during this time. You’ll see clubs and other objects that the county police force used on marchers. You’ll learn about the demeaning “questions” African Americans had to answer so they could register to vote. You’ll hear from both sides, learn more about pivotal figures on both sides, and view various artifacts from both sides.
The museum is appropriate for all ages and provides an excellent conversation starter to discuss how far the country has come and where the country is today.
Selma Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m. — 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It’s closed on Sunday and federal holidays. Admission is free.
Apryl Chapman Thomas is the feature writer for Southern Hospitality Magazine Traveler. Follow her travels on Instagram @southerntravelinggal.
Memphis Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum, located in Memphis, TN, is a powerful tribute to the National Civil Rights Movement.
The museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel, the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, making it an emotional location.
The museum details Black history beginning with slavery and continuing through to modern-day issues, including Black Lives Matter. The museum covers so much more than what is covered in school. One permanent exhibit, for instance, is about the global slave trade dating back to the 1600s. The museum shares the gruesome truth that is typically left out in the education system. The museum also covers the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, which I was completely unfamiliar with prior to visiting the museum. Of course, details about MLK Jr. and his life & assassination are covered, and visitors are able to see the location where he was murdered – making it all the more touching.
The museum is so much more than the Underground Railroad and “I Have a Dream” – expect to learn the unedited history of Black struggles.
The museum is located in downtown Memphis at 450 Mulberry Street with free parking available nearby for museum guests. Current hours are 9a – 5p Wednesday – Saturday, 9a – 6p Monday, and closed Sunday and Tuesday. Given the ever-changing state of the world right now, be sure to check the National Civil Rights Museum website for the most up-to-date information. You should plan to spend at least two hours at the museum.
California African American Museum
About the Contributor: Ciara
Ciara is a SoCal native who loves traveling the globe with her husband, finding new ways to feel healthy and fit. Through a blend of fitness, nutrition, and personal development tips, her travel blog, Wellness Travel Diaries helps others find a meaningful connection to their own health and travel journey. In her free time, you’ll find her health coaching and exploring new cities while devouring a scoop of chocolaty ice cream. You can also find her on Instagram and Pinterest.
The sunny city of Los Angeles, California hosts a wide variety of museums that includes hands-on science exploration exhibits, stunning art, and collections filled with rich cultural artwork. One excellent culture museum that regularly receives visitors is the California African American Museum, also known as CAAM. This museum is located at Exposition Park, found near USC. Here you’ll find various other museums at the park, including the California Science Center, Natural History Museum, and the brightly colored rose garden.
The CAAM features a multitude of art pieces and collections that elegantly showcase black identity, history, and culture through an artistic lens. The exhibitions do change frequently, and a detailed list of the currently open or upcoming exhibits can be found on the website. All the featured artwork at this museum is created by Black artists, African artists and other Diasporic artists.
Furthermore, the CAAM also hosts programs with a plethora of workshops and talks that visitors can attend. For example, a previous program series called “The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles, 1900-1914” observed the Black community’s experience in Los Angeles from the last century, depicting the hopes and challenges Black Los Angeles faces. Additionally, the CAAM is open every day except Monday. Its hours are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday, while on Sunday the museum opens an hour later. Admission to the museum is always free.
Lastly, no food is served at this museum, but a food court can be found at the California Science Center. There are restaurants nearby within a short walking distance from the museum. However, I recommend packing a picnic and enjoying the relaxing Exposition Park Rose Gardens after your visit to the museum.
Idaho Black History Museum
When people mention Black history in the US, very seldom does the state Idaho come to mind. In fact, Idaho usually doesn’t come to mind for…anything travel related. Yet Black miners, ranchers, and cowboys shaped Idaho’s culture and are an integral part of Black history in the US. Many of Idaho’s original Black residents relocated to Idaho in the hope of a life separate from the Jim Crow segregation of the south or the still blatant discrimination of the north. However, one of the best things to do in Boise coincidentally can teach you more about Idaho’s past through the Black perspective! Check out The Idaho Black History Museum, set in a historic Black Baptist church in Boise. While the museum hours are limited, only open Wednesday-Saturday, it offers an accurate analysis of Idaho’s Black history – the good, the bad, and its own share of racism.
The museum also holds workshops, lectures, community events, and outreach programs. But, in a state where the population is 94% white, the museum is not only for the Black community. The Idaho Black History museum serves as a bridge between cultures and nationalities in the state, as well as advocating for education and institutional reform. Thankfully, the non-Black residents of Boise are also willing to learn and listen, which is critical for bringing change in the local legislature, especially for issues disproportionally affecting BIPOC communities. There is no set entrance fee for the Idaho Black History Museum, as it runs on donations, so the price is flexible and accessible to all who want to learn.
Contributed by Kay of the Awkward Traveler