6 Places to Explore African American History & Culture
Although Black History Month is celebrated in February, our story is shared year-round across the world. Black history spreads across continents, cultures, and centuries. It is so complex and interesting that there is something for everyone. Here are 6 diverse destinations to help travelers delve deeper into African American history and culture:
National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC)
The National Museum of African American History & Culture was a long time coming! It was authorized in 2003, the site was selected in 2006, and the museum was open for business in 2016. The NMAAHC is a well organized, comprehensive, and interactive destination for African American History. Its 12 exhibits cover slavery, civil rights, segregation, religion, sports, visual and performing arts, entertainment, community, and family. One visit is not enough to comb through over 400 years of artifacts and historical information. We spent approximately 4 hours at the museum and didn't even scratch the surface. It's so easy to get captivated by just one exhibit. A huge bonus was the museum restaurant, Sweet Home Café. This restaurant highlights tasty traditional African American foods from the North, the Agricultural South, Creole Coast, and the West Range regions.
Situated on the gulf coast of Ghana, is the white-washed medieval-style Elmina Castle. On the outside you will find beautiful blue skies and waters, sandy beaches, and tropical palm trees, but inside is the dark memory of the hundreds of thousands of Africans enslaved, tortured, and shipped throughout the Americas. If there is one thing I was taught over and over again in grade school--it was the history of African slavery. But having that background textbook knowledge couldn't prepare my heart for the walk through the poorly ventilated, dark dungeons my ancestors were placed in. Although this was a rough visit for me, it was a transformative experience.
Read more about my visit to Elmina here.
New Orleans, LA
The Whitney Plantation
There are an abundance of plantations in Louisiana, but the Whitney Plantation is unique in that it's the only one that focuses on of the slaves' experience. According to our tour guide, a majority of plantations in Louisiana focus on superficial details like the chinaware in the Big House and not on the meaningful lives of enslaved people. The two-hour guided tour walks you through the museum exhibits, restored buildings, and first-person slave narratives. You'll leave with a strong sense of what it was like to be a slave in Louisiana.
Read more about my experience in New Orleans here.
Black Wall Street
In the early 1900s, Parrish Street in Durham, North Carolina was the core of African American business, better known as Black Wall Street. It was a four-block district named in reference to New York City Wall Street, which houses the New York Stock Exchange and renowned financial firms. There were cities with similar districts to Black Wall Street, however Durham's was the most integral, and nationally recognized. Parrish street surrounded the Hayti community, Durham's primary African American residential district. Together, the two districts served as a hub of Black life in Durham. Currently, there are six bronze sculptures celebrating the history of this street.
International Civil Rights Center & Museum
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is dedicated to international struggle for civil and human rights. The Museum is located in Greensboro, North Carolina in the F.W. Woolworth retail store. Woolworth was the site of the nonviolent protests led by four freshmen from N.C. A&T State University in 1960. The freshmen sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter and challenged the laws of segregation. Their bold actions served as an impetus for the civil rights movement.
Marvel's Black Panther
While Wakanda is a fictional country in Africa, the effects of Marvel's Black Panther movie are real. With its majority Black cast and creatives, the world received a film we haven't seen before. This film doesn't thrive off negative stereotypes of Black people, but instead is a film where Black kids can rejoice in seeing superheros and scientists that look like them, a film where natural black beauty is celebrated, a film dedicated to the empowerment of the Black community. In short, the film gave me LIFE! Black Panther made history in the box office surpassing $700 million worldwide in ticket sales by its 2nd weekend. More so, Disney donated $1 million dollars to expand Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programming in Boys & Girls Club Of America in celebration of Black Panther's success. Representation matters and it makes a huge impact. No this film won't undo all the years of systematic injustice towards African Americans, but it is a step in the right direction. It is truly a cultural event the world needed to see and experience.
These are places that I've visited and recommend, but I know there are tons of other places to add to this list! I would love to hear about it in my comment box below!
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