From some places you’ll likely recognize immediately for their significance to some lesser-known monuments or locations, here are 15 places to visit to reflect on Black history in the United States.
15 Landmarks to Visit In Honor of Black History Month
1.) The Civil Rights Trail, various states
This trail will actually lead you to many locations – hundreds of spots across fifteen states – as you learn the story of the civil rights movement in the United States. Some you may know of already, like the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and the Woolworth’s department store in North Carolina that started the student sit-ins. However, there are many more sites that have gotten less attention over the years and which are well worth a stop.
Before you go, be sure to check out the website for the Civil Rights Trail, which has lots of information on the sites and the civil rights movement, as well as interactive features to help kids learn more.
2.) National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
It wasn’t until 2016 that there was a Smithsonian museum, the “only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history, and culture.” President Barack Obama gave the dedication speech when the museum opened. See iconic items like Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, Harriet Tubman’s prayer shawl, a Jim Crow railroad car, and recent additions like protest signs from the Black Lives Matter movement. The museum also features work from artists including Charles Alston, Elizabeth Catlett, and Jacob Lawrence.
This national monument was established in 2013, and honors Charles Young who had to overcome racism and the inequalities of his time to become a military leader. Young was born into slavery, but became the third Black graduate of West Point and was the highest-ranking Black officer in the Army. Learn more about his life and the lives of Black soldiers during his time.
4.) Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Missouri
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was created in 1990 by historians and former baseball players and it shares space with the American Jazz Museum. It’s the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving the history of African-American baseball.
5.) African Meeting House, Massachusetts
This tiny house of worship was built in the early 1800s, and is one of the oldest Black churches in the United States. The building was a church, a school, and a meeting house where Boston’s Black community gathered and organized, especially during the fight to get slavery abolished in the 1800s.
6.) Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas
After the Civil War, formerly enslaved Black Americans left Kentucky and established a community in Kansas during Reconstruction. This area and park are named after a slave who purchased his freedom, and the site includes a church and schoolhouse, along with other buildings. Nicodemus shares the history of African-Americans in the westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains.
7.) Beale Street Historic District, Tennessee
Known as the “Home of the Blues,” the Beale Street neighborhood in Memphis fostered some of the best early jazz, blues, and R&B and is a key place in the history of music in the United States. Louis Armstrong, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters all played clubs in Beale Street.
8.) Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC
This memorial is near the National Mall where King gave his renowned “I Have A Dream” speech. There is a statue of King at the memorial, carved from granite and inspired by the speech as well. Martin Luther King Jr. is the first Black person to be honored with a memorial near the National Mall. You can also spend some time reading the Inscription Wall, which features quotes from his speeches, sermons, and writings.
9.) National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
This museum is built around the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in 1968. The building where his assassin stood as he fired the shot is also part of the museum. The museum has interactive exhibits and collections of historic pieces. It also hosts speakers and events that allow visitors to learn more about the history of King’s time and the fight for civil rights.
10.) Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Alabama
Located near the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, and the Carver Theater in the city’s Civil Rights District, this museum has interpretive exhibits that share the history and challenges of the civil rights movement in America. Permanent exhibits include the building itself and the Human Rights and Confrontation Galleries, while special exhibits feature writings, art, and other items that share more about the fight for civil rights.
11.) Fort Pillow State Historic Park, Tennessee
This state park commemorates the Battle of Fort Pillow, where 229 of the 262 Union soldiers in the fight were killed by Confederate troops. The park has a reconstructed inner fort you can tour, and the museum showcases Civil War artifacts including a canon, along with interpretive displays sharing the history of the fort.
12.) Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington, D.C.
Tour Douglass’ home and learn more about his life, his activism, and his writings. After escaping from slavery, Douglass was active in fighting for both abolition and for suffragette rights and you can learn more about him at this site where he spent the latter years of his life.
13.) Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Historical Park, Maryland
Harriet Tubman, a former slave who was a leader of the Underground Railroad funneling slaves to freedom in the North, is an iconic woman in the history of the United States and the fight against slavery. Tubman went back to the South several times after escaping to freedom, and helped nearly 70 others achieve their own dream of escaping to the North and out of slavery. Learn more about Tubman and the Underground Railroad with its network of sites leading people to freedom.
14.) Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Michigan
This museum in Detroit is home to the largest permanent exhibit on African-American culture. The museum was founded in 1965 and the centerpiece is a permanent exhibit titled, “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African-American History and Culture,” which contains 20 galleries of art, artifacts, and other information on African-American culture.
15.) Museum of the African Diaspora, California
This San Francisco museum traces the history and roots of Black people to the African continent and shares the influence of African culture and art across the world.
For more suggestions of places to visit, you can also check out this post, “10 Historical Sites to Visit in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day.” Many of those sites that were important in King’s life were also important to the overall fight for civil rights for Black Americans.