Make every month Black History Month by visiting one of these important spots: from to museums of African-American history to historic sites that represent important African-American people and events, you can teach your children about history and culture while having a memorable family vacation
The Legacy Museum - Montgomery, AL
The museum depicts the history of black people in the United States, beginning with slavery, through Jim Crow laws and segregation, to current issues of mass incarceration. The memorial, a quick walk away, honors 4,000 victims of lynching and racial violence. By filling in the gaps in the history that many Americans learn in school, the content presented may help families initiate discussions related to race and inequality in the United States
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site - Little Rock, AR
The Little Rock Central High School was the most prominent example of the desegregation of public schools in 1954 when nine African-American students attended school here for the first time in history. You have to arrange a tour to enter the school, now designated a National Historic Site, but it’s relatively easy to do and a great way to help kids understand the significance of this school as well as the history of desegregation in the U.S.
Walk in Frederick Douglass' Footsteps in Baltimore, MD
Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey came to Baltimore as a child where he lived as an enslaved person in the Auld family home on Aliceanna St. (known as Happy Alley). It was here that he learned to read; Hugh Auld's wife Sophia taught Frederick the alphabet (in spite of her husband's disapproval). See the Fell's Point shipyards where Douglass worked and the place where he purchased his first-ever book (28 Thames St.) In 1838, disguised as a sailor, he escaped north to freedom on the train; it is thought he passed through Baltimore's President Street Station, (where you can now found a Civil War Museum.) Douglass went on to change the course of history by fighting tirelessly for freedom and equality. (Fun fact: When he married, he took the name Douglass after the hero clan in Sir Walter Scott's famous poem, Lady of the Lake.) Later in life, Douglass returned to Baltimore to build a row of houses for African-American renters. You can visit the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum in Fell's Point, on the site of the first African American-owned shipyard in the United States and see a large sculpture of Douglass at Maritime Park. Sign up for the Frederick Douglass Path to Freedom Walking Tour that will take you on a route that both teaches Douglass' experience in Baltimore as well as the history of the Underground Railroad, immigration and shipbuilding. Call 443-983-7974 to make an appointment for this one-hour, daily tour.
Learn more about Frederick Douglass here.
And check out visitbaltimore.org to learn more about Douglass' legacy.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site - Atlanta, GA
Take your kids back to where this leader of the Civil Rights Movement was once a kid. At the Martin Luther King Jr. site, you can visit his birth home, play where MLK played as a child and learn all about his early years in the movement. Get inspired to fight inequality in your neck of the woods.
Belle Meade Plantation- Nashville, TN
You’d think the last thing you’d want to do to understand race in America is visit the grounds of a plantation that once used enslaved people to make its wealth. But after a recent visit to Belle Meade Plantation in the Nashville area we can report first-hand that this historic property is at the forefront of talking with the public in a truthful way about the horrors of slavery while honoring the African-American history of the property. The Journey to Jubilee tour follows the story of the African-Americans who were brought to the plantation in 1807, but who stayed on the plantation through the early 1900s. It shows their vital presence on the property, their story of enslavement to freedom and provides visitors with an understanding of the times from the African-American viewpoint. This tour is not recommended for kids under 12 due to the graphic reality of slavery, however the general tour of Belle Meade also incorporates the story of the African-Americans who came as slaves but stayed on as hired workers after the abolishment fo slavery. The property itself is very kid-friendly and an excellent respite from the bustle of the city.
Go Underground in Auburn, NY
Auburn is a charming town in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and has an incredibly rich history. Teach your children what it really means to stand up to tyranny by immersing them in the world of Harriet Tubman. The national park that bears her name is the perfect place to learn all about this incredible woman who emancipated herself from slavery at the age of just 27 and went on to help dozens of slaves find freedom. Before you go, the kids can become an Underground Railroad Junior Ranger to learn about the system of secret houses and waystations that helped slaves find freedom. Harriet Tubman National Historical Park includes her home, a visitor’s center, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, and the church she raised funds to build. Her burial site is also nearby. A new visitor center is planned for 2018. The town of Auburn also boasts several other history museums and collections, a memorable public theater and year-round events and festivals.
Maggie Lena Walker National Historic Site - Richmond, VA
This site is dedicated to the legacy of Maggie Lena Walker, a newspaper editor, bank president and champion of civil rights for African Americans and women. Join a tour of her home and an exhibit hall, watch a short film about her life and walk in the footsteps of a great activist of the early 20th century.
Rosa Parks Memorial - Montgomery, AL
Smack dab on the corner where Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks boarded a public bus and where she was infamously arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, this museum focuses on Parks' story and its place in the Civil Rights Movement. The Museum includes a permanent exhibit, “The Cleveland Avenue Time Machine,” a replica city bus that uses fog, lighting, sound, hydraulics and a robot bus driver to guide visitors are on a series of “time jumps” from Jim Crow to “Separate But Equal.”
In Greensboro, NC ,your kids can visit the site of the first Civil Right's sit-in and learned about the A&T Four— four young African-American students who sat at a “Whites Only” counter inside the Woolworth restaurant on Feb. 1, 1960 and refused to move. At the the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, a guided tour helps your family learn and relearn important facts about America’s history before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement. The Greensboro Cultural Arts Center houses the African America Atelier where you will find moving exhibits that the whole family will enjoy. And you'll want to visit the Guilford College Underground Railroad trail, which simulates how fugitives seeking freedom navigated in the woods on the Guilford College community with assistance from free and enslaved African-Americans and European-American Allies.
Museum of African Diaspora - San Francisco, CA
Celebrating the universal connection of all people through their association with Africa, this must-visit museum showcases exhibitions aimed at representing work that may be under-represented in other U.S. museums. For example, as soon as you walk in, you're greeted by a three-story mural comprised of 2,100 photographs submitted by people of the Diaspora.
National Museum of African-American History and Culture- Washington, D.C.
The stunning building, inspired by Yoruba art and filigree ironwork, is filled with presentations and artifacts that give visitors a glimpse at all aspects—the good and the gut-wrenching—of the African American experience. It’s a must-visit for the entire family. See our in-depth guide here.
The National Museum of African American Music-Nashville, TN
Set to open in the summer of 2020 in Music City, this highly-anticipated museum will be the only museum dedicated to educating, preserving and celebrating more than 50 music genres and styles that were created or inspired by African Americans. The 56,000 square foot museum will be located at 5th and Broadway, in the heart of Nashville, and will include artifacts, objects, memorabilia, clothing and state-of-the-art technology to showcase different narratives and genres. Learn more at nmaam.org
—Amber Guetebier, Ayren Jackson-Cannady