As we continue to celebrate Black History Month this February, we find it a time to encourage travelers to plan trips to destinations at the forefront of celebrating the history and culture of black citizens in the U.S. Whether you find one of these places close to your own home town, or you choose to plan a trip around several of these incredibly historic destinations, you’ll find stories in abundance among the buildings and streets in the cities below.
One of the best places to learn about black history in the U.S. is in our nation's capital. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, a 2016 addition to the Smithsonian museums in D.C., is the only museum in the country solely dedicated to African American life, history, and culture.
In December of 1955, a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, per the request of the driver. So began the legendary Montgomery Bus Boycotts, which came to be known as one of the most important civil rights protests in U.S. history—and thanks to Parks and a community of fiercely dedicated supporters, Montgomery's bus system was racially integrated in the summer of 1956.
Today, you can learn all about Parks' path toward social justice at the Rosa Parks Museum, located at Troy University's Montgomery campus.
Travel to Memphis to learn about black history in the south, and stay a little longer for the barbecue and storied music scene. Spend a morning at the National Civil Rights Museum, followed by the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum—both incredible resources of stories and documentation of black history.
After a few hours soaking up history in the museums, switch gears and take time to learn about the black music legends of Memphis—think B.B. King and Hank Crawford. Start at the Blue's Foundation Hall of Fame, and then catch an unforgettable live show at Blues Hall Juke Joint. Check out Payne's Original Bar-B-Q, home (since 1972) to what some say is the best chopped pork barbecue sandwich in the country.
In Chicago, there's simply no shortage of ways to celebrate Black History Month. Head to the Windy City and you'll be greeted by a rich music culture—blues, jazz, and black gospel—as well as museums, historical sites, celebrations of black artists, and much more. Chicago is arguably one of the very best places to learn about black artists in the U.S.; be sure to make time for artist Roger Carter's tribute to iconic black men at his exhibit, Black Heroes, at Gallery Guichard. You can also learn a vast amount about black writers in America at the American Writer's Museum.
While New York City is a perfectly good place to learn about black history in the U.S., we're going to recommend that you head upstate (about 4.5 hours from Manhattan) to Auburn, where you can spend an afternoon exploring the Harriet Tubman Home. Here, you can take a guided tour of Tubman's homestead, and learn all about the core values of the Underground Railroad's heroine.
For those heading to the west coast, Los Angeles deserves a spot on your Black History Month pilgrimage. Learn about African American art, history, and culture at the California African American Museum where you can explore exhibits like No Crystal Stair: The Photography of John Simmons, or at the Getty Museum where you can see a special photography exhibit called LA #Unshuttered, featuring young photographers advocating for social justice. Through May 6, the Museum of Tolerance will display Fighting For the Right to Fight, which shares WWII experiences from black men and women. Grab a bite during your trip at My Two Cents, helmed by chef Alisa Reynolds, for some delicious, California-style soul food.