Black history is American history, so of course there are way more than 10 institutions that should be on the list. In addition to the sites below, here are just a few more right here in New York City like Brooklyn's Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and the Weeksville Heritage Center. In Manhattan, the African Burial Ground National Monument is an important must downtown, while uptown we have to make sure the world famous Apollo Theater makes the list! You don't need to fit in a visit just during February. These cultural institutions offer so much for everyone year-round!
Below excerpt of 2/10/2021 Virtuoso article by Tracy E. Hopkins can be found HERE.
Every February in the U.S., Black History Month shines a light on the trailblazing talents and significant contributions of generations of African Americans. Their legacy, however, is an inextricable part of history – stories that showcase Black excellence and remind us of Black resilience should be acknowledged and celebrated year-round. Museums and cultural institutions across the country offer travelers perennial opportunities to experience and learn about Black history and culture. Making these places must-stops on any itinerary in a new city is an easy and enlightening way to celebrate Black legacy, far beyond the month of February. Here, ten ideas to jump-start your trip planning.
National Museum of African American History and Culture | Washington, D.C.
“A people’s journey. A nation’s story.” This thematic thread runs throughout the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is housed in a dramatic, David Adjaye-designed bronze building with a facade that’s meant to resemble an African crown. The newest Smithsonian museum on D.C.’s National Mall opened in 2016 and houses a collection of more than 36,000 artifacts, from a full-scale, Jim Crow-era Pullman train car to one of funk artist James Brown’s black satin capes. The exhibits and galleries powerfully illustrate the trials and triumphs of African Americans – from slavery and segregation to social activism and the power of the Black press.
International African American Museum | Charleston, South Carolina
More than 20 years in the making, Charleston’s International African American Museum is set to open its doors in early 2022. Built over the site of a former major transatlantic slave-trade port , the museum will be home to the African Ancestors Memorial Garden, a meditative space with botanic gardens and an infinity fountain at the edge of the port’s original wharf . Enslaved people who survived the voyage from West Africa were separated from their families and stripped of their identities. To reconnect patrons with their roots, the museum plans to run a genealogy program and will share unsung stories of African Americans from the region, the nation, and the African diaspora at large.
National Great Blacks in Wax Museum | Baltimore, Maryland
Spanning several refashioned row homes in East Baltimore, this is the country’s first and most comprehensive wax museum dedicated to the study and preservation of Black history. Upon entry, visitors descend a flight of stairs into a room with a 24-by-30-foot replica slave ship that depicts the inhumane treatment enslaved Africans endured on their captive journey to America. Elsewhere, 150 lifelike wax statues of groundbreaking African Americans – including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and President Barack Obama – honor some of the country’s most prominent leaders.
DuSable Museum of African American History | Chicago
The namesake of this institution in the city’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood (where the Obamas used to live) is Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a Black man of Haitian, French, and African descent who became the first resident of Chicago in 1779, when he settled along the northern bank of the Chicago River and set up a popular trading post. The DuSable Museum of African American History houses more than 15,000 pieces of Black artwork, rare archives, and historic memorabilia, including a standout permanent exhibit that features a can’t-miss animatronic statue of Chicago’s beloved first Black mayor, Harold Washington.
California African American Museum | Los Angeles
Located in L.A.’s Exposition Park, CAAM showcases progressive and provocative contemporary art by African American artists from the West Coast, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Mixed media and photography exhibits illuminate the Black experience, including a current exhibition profiling Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Kendrick Lamar, and other revolutionary Black men via inspiring quotes, original art, and embellished photographs. An upcoming quilt-based exhibit will showcase L.A. native and visual artist Sanford Biggers. Pre-pandemic, CAAM was known for its lively dance parties to celebrate their exhibitions’ opening nights – let’s hope that tradition continues soon.
Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture | New York City
Founded in 1925, this under-the-radar gem of the New York Public Library system is located in the heart of Harlem. It’s part research library (with more than 300,000 volumes and rare archives), and part museum, featuring murals by Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, and artworks by Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, and others. Pre- (and eventually, post!) pandemic, Schomburg serves as a community gathering space for film screenings and other performing arts programs. Until you can visit, we recommend checking out the center’s Black Liberation Reading list.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Notable Black Philadelphians and artists of color are championed at this institution just down the street from the Liberty Bell. Opened in 1976, Philadelphia's African American Museum is the first museum built by a major U.S. city to house and interpret the life and work of African Americans. A permanent exhibition, Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776 - 1876, shares stories from people of color in Philadelphia during the country’s nascent years, while other photography and mixed media exhibits explore notable themes of Black masculinity, spirituality, and ancestral connection.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture | Baltimore
Named after a prominent African American businessman and philanthropist, this bold museum designed by architect Philip Freelon sits near Baltimore’s bustling Inner Harbor. It’s packed with more than 400 years of Maryland history in its permanent collection – but also dedicates space to spotlighting regional African Americans who made strides in politics, media, education, and other industries. Of note is the current exhibit, Make Good Trouble: Marching for Change, a collection of protest signs, photos, murals, and buttons from Maryland activists and artists who took to the streets to protest racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
Le Musee de f.p.c. | New Orleans
Set on the parlor floor of a grand mansion on historic Esplanade Avenue, the unique Musee de f.p.c. honors the legacy of NOLA’s mixed race and French-speaking people of African ancestry who were educated, owned property, and lived outside of slavery before the Civil War. Founded by newspaper publisher Beverly Stanton McKenna and her husband, Dwight McKenna, the museum showcases stories and exhibits shared by descendants that reminds visitors of their ancestors’ legacy. Tours are offered by appointment only.
National Civil Rights Museum | Memphis, Tennessee
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while standing on his room’s balcony at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis. With the motel’s original facade intact – so visitors can view Room 306, where Dr. King spent his final hours – the site has been transformed into the harrowing National Civil Rights Museum. In the adjacent Lorraine Building, visitors can take a self-guided tour through interactive media exhibits that chronicle Black America’s struggle for equality.
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