If you’ve ever wanted to bask in the beauty of being Black during Black History Month in more ways than just reposting a few widely known quotes, hitting up some Black-owned businesses or just passing around that “I’m Black Y’all” clip from CB4, we have an idea for you. Why don’t you give yourself a chance to be immersed in our history by going on a trip? You can check out the landmarks in your own city that pay homage, or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can go on an actual road trip with friends or family to a few cities around the country that take you up close to our past, our present and our future.
We selected seven cities and/or towns that have plenty for you to explore. Black History Month is preparing to come to a close, but it’s also a great launch pad for you to start visiting these cities when the ancestral spirit moves you. Check out seven places to visit that should be on your bucket list, because not only are they lovely, but they’re also beacons for African-American history and culture.
Overflowing with Black history, Oakland is where the Black Panther Party’s roots begin. The political organization was founded by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in this very city back in 1966. But aside from the beginnings of the revolutionary group, today, there are so many things to see and do in Oakland. While Black History Month is still going, you can check out the third annual Black Joy Parade on February 23. It is both an actual parade and festival where guests are asked to “be present, be creative, be open and be free.” Outside of just the month of February, there are a wealth of Black businesses that are thriving that you can support, including Feelmore, an adult sex positive shop, Betti Ono, a cultural arts venue, gallery and art and design store, McMullen, a luxury fashion boutique catering to the fierce style of Black women, and Queen Hippie Gypsy, the first Black-owned “crystal botanica” for the quirky Black girl. Whenever you go, whatever you do, don’t forget to visit Marcus Books, which is the oldest independent Black-owned book store in the country, operating on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, fittingly.
A predominately Black city, Memphis is filled with places and spaces that are all about celebrating Blackness. Organizations like the Hattiloo Theatre, one of four freestanding Black theaters in the country, and the CLTV Collective help to cultivate the talents of Black artists and creatives. Memphis Black Restaurant Week in March puts the spotlight on restaurants owned by people of color all around the city, promoting economic diversity. There’s the Africa in April Cultural Awareness Festival, which celebrates Africa’s cultural influence through a parade, performers and of course, food. And there are staples like the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, which is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, as well as the legendary Beale Street, a home for blues. Flooded with music, food and entertainment, it’s one of the state’s most popular attractions.
Selma, in general, is quite rich in history, but it’s especially remembered for its place in the Civil Rights Movement. You can visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge where “Bloody Sunday” took place, when civil rights marchers going from Selma to state capital Montgomery were attacked by law enforcement while protesting against racial discrimination in voting. There’s also the famed Brown Chapel AME Church, where a monument for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stands out front (and is located on Martin Luther King Street). The church was the headquarters/starting point for voting rights marches in ’65 and the offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Also check out the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute as well as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
Sure, there are plenty of restaurants, businesses and sites of leisure filled with Black folks in Atlanta, but there are also so many places steeped with history in the city. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Site features Dr. King’s birth home as well as his tomb. Visit the campuses of four landmark historically Black colleges, Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown. There’s also the John Wesley Dobbs Plaza, which features a bronze sculpture of the civil rights activist, political leader and Atlanta native, as well as the Herndon Home, a residence built buy Atlanta’s first Black millionaire, Alonzo Herndon, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
It’s a must if you step in Detroit that you check out Hitsville U.S.A., aka, Motown’s first headquarters. The space has gone from legendary recording studio to a museum that showcases where some of the greatest singers and musicians recorded classics, along with memorabilia, photographs and Motown artifacts. Also a beloved space, the Charles H. Wright Museum has more than 35,000 artifacts dedicated to the Black experience, as well as being home to hundreds of annual events in its vast space. In addition to that, you can enjoy the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and support an array of popular Black-owned businesses, including retailers Detroit is the New Black, Source Booksellers, and restaurants like Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, Savannah Blue and more.
There is, perhaps, no more impressive of a place to visit in all of the country during Black History Month or any month at that than the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The Smithsonian institution, which is located on the National Mall, has only been open since 2016 but has garnered a lot of fanfare in a short time thanks to all the exhibits and objects on display in the 350,000 square foot space. If that’s too much space and stories for you to walk, show love to the great Frederick Douglass by visiting his home for a guided tour. You might be interested in visiting the Shaw neighborhood where Duke Ellington called home, as well as escaped slaves. The area, known as “The Heart of Chocolate City” has some delicious food offerings, too. You can check out the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963, or take a picture in front of him at the much more recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Don’t forget to stop by beloved HBCU Howard University‘s campus. There’s no shortage of Black brilliance in Chocolate City.
Honor two unforgettable names in Black history by visiting the homes of Harriet Tubman in upstate New York, and Langston Hughes in Harlem. The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park features the abolitionist and activist’s house, which you can see the grounds of, as well as the Fort Hill Cemetery where she rests and the landmark Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church.
If you choose to wander to uptown NYC to show some love to poet Langston Hughes at his home on 20 East 127th Street, you’ll find the I, Too, Arts Collective, a non-profit that offers poetry salons and more, honors his memory there. And New York City being New York City, there are all sorts of experiences and events happening around the city that help to celebrate Blackness all-year round, as well as plenty of historical sites. Enjoy a stop at the Apollo Theater, The Cotton Club, Minton’s Playhouse or The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. From there, go to The Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, the African Burial Ground National Monument and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (take dance classes or check out a performance) in Manhattan, and a lot, lot more.