5 Cities to Explore African American History
With Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 15 and Black History Month coming in February, it’s a great time to plan a family trip over a long weekend and visit places that tell the story of African-Americans’ contributions to American history.
To learn about Dr. King’s life and legacy, head to the civil-rights leader’s hometown of Atlanta and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Visitors can tour King’s childhood home, pay their respects at the final resting place of King and his wife, Coretta and tour the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where three generations of his family preached. At the Atlanta University Center, the nation’s largest concentration of historically black colleges and universities, vistors can tour galleries and museums with works by African and African-American artists.
In Memphis, the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. More than 250 artifacts, films, oral histories and interactive exhibits guide visitors through African-American history. Memphis is known as the Home of the Blues, and the city’s Blues Hall of Fame celebrates the music that originated with African-Americans in the South. About an hour north of Memphis, in Henning, Tennessee, the boyhood home of “Roots” author Alex Haley is open to visitors.
Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History is named after the Haitian explorer who, in 1779, established the settlement that would become the Windy City. Permanent exhibits include “Red, White, Blue & Black: A History of Blacks in the Armed Forces” and “Freedom, Resistance and the Journey Toward Equality.” Save time for a walking tour of the Hyde Park neighborhood that President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle called home before he was elected president. A plaque marks the spot where the former first couple shared their first kiss.
In Kansas City, the historic 18th & Vine district was a center of African-American life and a cradle of jazz. Today, it’s home to two museums of African-American history. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum tells the story of black players from the late 1800s through the 1960s with photographs, artifacts and multimedia displays. The American Jazz Museum brings to life this American art form in a way that’s engaging for visitors of all ages and musical backgrounds. The museum is also home to the Blue Room nightclub.
Since it opened in September 2016, more than 2½ million people have visited the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. With thousands of artifacts, stretching back several centuries to the present day, the museum’s mission is to tell “A People’s Journey, A Nation’s Story.” Free, timed-entry passes are released online several months in advance on the first Wednesday of every month. They go quickly, so start planning now if you want to visit later this year. Other sites in Washington to explore African-American history include the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Cedar Hill, the home of abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass.
For help planning a trip to explore African-American history, contact us or get a quote below.