While Buffalo is full of cultural and historical landmarks that commemorate important people and events in American history, there are several that are especially meaningful to the African American community. It was here in Buffalo that some escaped slaves found respite, plans for the Civil Rights Movement were developed and implemented, and music history was made. As you plan your itinerary in this western New York city adjacent to Niagara Falls, don’t miss these one-of-a-kind places. Observe and honor the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans of yesterday while finding the kind of inspiration that propels today’s rising leaders.
The Underground Railroad Heritage Center reveals the hidden history of Niagara Falls as a stop on the road to much-hoped-for freedom. Through events, exhibits, tours, and activities, learn first-hand accounts of Black Americans seeking a better life in the North and the abolitionists who assisted them. Not only does the Center bring history to life, it encourages visitors to explore the ways in which the past reverberates today.
Michigan Street Baptist Church holds a special place in the history of Buffalo’s Black community, as it was the first church built by, for, and owned by Black residents of the city. Today, the church is on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a tour and walk in the footsteps of those who worked tirelessly to provide sanctuary and solidarity in the fight for civil rights from pre-Civil War days to today. Continue your experience of the Michigan Street Baptist Church with a tour at the nearby Nash House Museum.
The Nash House Museum is the home of the former pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church, Rev. J. Edward Nash, Sr., who lived in the home with his family for 60 years. Rev. Nash’s home provides a unique and important view into the history of the Black community in Buffalo, and his interactions with nationally known Black leaders of the day.
Like generations of Buffalo residents before you, you can attend a show at the Historic Colored Musicians Club. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind opportunity to be present in the same space as legendary jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie once were.
Buffalo has more to offer than just historical insight as well. Four local artists, working in conjunction with the community, developed The Freedom Wall to explore the relationship between national civil rights work and its local effects. Panels include well-known figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Shirley Chisholm, and Malcolm X as well as lesser-known yet vitally important figures like Mama Charlene Caver Miller, Fannie Lou Hamer, Mamie Gillette, and Dr. Monroe Fordham. Spend some time walking among the portraits at Michigan Ave. and East Ferry St. to find inspiration.
Buffalo has much to offer visitors, and African American tourists in particular, with a broad mix of history and culture. When you’re planning your next weekend getaway, consider exploring how this Western New York city is a pivotal place, both historically and contemporarily, in the continued fight for equity and equality.
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