Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19, visiting some of the following places may not be possible but we encourage you to look into virtual programming on the website, read up on social-distanced attendance and/or plan your trip for the bright, bright future.
During Black History Month, it’s a wonderful time to teach our youth about the African-Americans who paved the way for civil rights in America. You don’t need to be African-American to appreciate the intense efforts those before us made to help make a positive impact on our country.
With today’s times being more volatile than ever, it’s important to reflect upon the past to keep moving forward. That being said, I have loved exploring black history with my daughter, Reese, to learn more about our heritage and how to go into the future with positivity.
When it comes to teaching history to kids, black history or any form of history, it can be hard to captivate their attention. But, taking your kids to these seven places will surely keep them entranced while they learn all about black history this February.
1. Civil Rights Museum (Montgomery, Alabama)
While it talks about some heavy tragedies, it focuses on triumphs too that happened in the modern Civil Rights Movement. With kids, it’s important to be positive. You can’t cover up the past but you can show them how even in difficult times, there were people that didn’t give up to make America a better place. The exhibits are interesting, plus there’s a short film about the power of activism. You can add your name to the Wall of Tolerance too. Additionally, the museum is close to the Alabama State Capitol and the Rosa Parks Museum.
2. 16th Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, Alabama)
Stop in here for a lively sermon if you can to show your kids that despite the evil and negativity in the world today, there is much joy to be found. During the Civil Rights Movement, this church was the meeting point for organized marches and other activities. It was bombed in 1963, a tragic event, yet one that has served as the catalyst for pushing the government to take action and lead the way for civil rights.
3. National Museum of African-American History (Washington, D.C.)
I promise you that it’s impossible to walk into this museum, no matter who you are or what your age is and not be completely captivated by the exhibits. The 12 inaugural exhibitions here are centered around history, culture and community. Black or not, you’ll have a better understanding of American history and culture and how it affects all of us regardless of skin color for liberty and equality, something every American deserves.
4. Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, Tennessee)
Of all the places we’ve visited that focused on black history, this was Reese’s absolute favorite one. The interactive exhibits that you can explore here are quite possibly the best reason to visit because it brings the stories to life. From the beginning of slavery through the Civil War and on to through today, it’s a museum that not only showcases artifacts from these times but brings hope by focusing on those that stood up for equality.
5. California African-American Museum (Los Angeles, California)
Because this one is close to home, it’s one Reese and I have been to many times. Any lover of art can appreciate the stunning collections here which focus on African-American works of art that include paintings, films, photographs, sculptures, artifacts and historical documents from the 1800s on to present-day. It’s a beautiful place to see black history through an artful eye, plus there are always workshops and interesting lectures you can catch to make it an even better place to see!
6. Martin Luther King Birthplace (Atlanta, Georgia)
Reese and I have yet to make it here, but as soon as we get a chance, we’ll tell you all about our visit! You can tour the Visitor Center, Dr. and Mrs. King’s Gravesite, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Historic Fire Station No. 6 and the Freedom Hall all on your own. There’s a guided tour led by a ranger for Dr. King’s Birth Home which is first-come, first served, so you’ll have to arrive early for your best chance to catch one. On the tour of the home, you get to see where Dr. King was born and where he lived for the next 12 years.
Park rangers only permit 15 people maximum per tour and with no reservations accepted, you may find yourself waiting a while to take the 30-minute tour. The good news is you don’t have to stand around all day waiting for your chance. You can sign up as soon as you get to the information desk in the Visitor Center and enjoy the rest of the sites while you wait for your turn to tour.
7. Human Rights Museum (Atlanta, Georgia)
Another place on our bucket list of things to see in Atlanta is the Human Rights Museum. In the heart of downtown Atlanta, this museum focuses on the achievements of the civil rights movement in America as well as encompasses the entire worldwide human rights movement for all. It’s been described to me by those who have been as one of the most inspiring places in the country. There are interactive exhibits, like the Lunch Counter, where you get to feel what it was like for the non-violent protestors in the 1960s.
Each of these places offers children the chance to explore one of the key pieces of American history in ways that are exploratory and inspire them to take a stand against inequality.