February is Black History Month. Throughout the country, there are rich opportunities to learn more about African-American history in the United States, and about African-American culture. Traveling Moms have been there – and we’ve brought back tips to help you plan your own family visit.
Whether you are in the South, the Midwest, the northeast, or elsewhere in the U.S., your family has many opportunities to learn more about African-American history, especially during Black History Month.
Black History in the South
The mission of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta, Georgia is both to educate and inspire nonviolent efforts for social change. In Savannah, Georgia, your family can visit the King-Tisdell Cottage, a cultural museum of African-American arts and crafts; the African-American Center for the Arts, located in Georgia’s oldest continuous school for Black people; and the African Baptist Church, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, all part of the Black Heritage Tour in Savannah, Georgia.
South Carolina offers the rich cultural history of African and Caribbean people in this country, including the Gullah people directly descended from African slaves.
Free in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. In St. Augustine, Florida is the Historic Excelsior School, built in 1925 as the first public high school for blacks in St. Augustine, and now a museum of African-American history.
Selma to Montgomery Historical Trail in Alabama is a 54-mile trail follows the historic voting rights march that was the subject of the movie Selma, from the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, across the Edmond Pettus Bridge.
Free in Knoxville is the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, featuring African American history in Tennessee from the late 1800’s to present through photographs, newspapers, biographies, audio and video, books and artwork. Free in Charleston, West Virginia is Heritage Towers, the African American Cultural Center.
In southwest Georgia, Christine Tibbets, Blended Family Mom recommends visiting the Jack Hadley Black History Museum, for photographs, letters, posters, banners and other artifacts detailing regional and national African American history, artists, sports stars and musicians.
Black History in the Midwest
Foodie Traveling Mom Megy Karydes recommends visiting the DuSable Museum in Chicago, the oldest independent African-American history museum in the country, with both permanent and rotating exhibits. DuSable offers free admission to some.
While not the right experience for most families, TravelingMom Editor Cindy Richards learned a lot from visiting an Indiana living history museum that, for 90-minutes, lets visitors experience aspects of the brutalized life of an enslaved person. Each November and April, Conner Prairie, northeast of Indianapolis, runs the “Follow the North Star” living history program. “When it was over, both my husband and I said we were glad our kids weren’t there. It was tough enough for each of us to hear the other being berated.”
Black History in the Northeast
You know Philadelphia for its colonial history. But did you know Philadelphia was a hotbed of anti-slavery activity before the Civil War? Abolitionists, including both men and women, African-Americans and whites, often Quakers, worked together and separately to oppose slavery. Some took direct action to aid escaping slaves in the secret organization called the Underground Railroad, says Philadelphia TravelingMom Sarah Ricks. In Philadelphia, your family can visit historical markers pointing out key abolitionist locations and the permanent exhibit at the African-American Museum.
One Philadelphia place where anti-slavery activity took place was the Johnson House, home to generations of the Johnson family, all Quakers. The Johnson House is open each week for excellent docent-led tours of about 45-minutes.
Foodie TravelingMom Megy Karydes says families up to a 90-minute walking tour of the Boston Freedom Trail will enjoy a “tales of intrigue and bravery, poetry and defiance by black Bostonians” during the Revolutionary War era, all led by costumed guides.
Beginning in 1895, Black entrepreneurs Peter Lane and Anna Louise James operated a pharmacy and ice cream parlor, which you can visit today in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, says Angela Tiffin, History Buff TravelingMom.
In Washington, DC, your family can visit the Mary Bethune Council House, headquarters and home to the founder of the National Council of Negro Women, a child of former slaves who worked to advance the interests of African-American women. This historic home is recommended by Angela Tiffin, History Buff TravelingMom.
Has your family explored African-American history sites? Tell us about it in the comments.