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10 Important Black History Sites to Visit in the U.S.

| Updated Sep 23, 2020

Black History Month isn't the only time to visit black history sites.

Learning about the civil rights movement in school, on TV, or in movies is one thing, but it's a much more profound experience to explore its important settings firsthand. 

I thought it would be worthwhile to share a list of important stops (identified with the help of Best Life) our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers might want to add to their list of destinations. 

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Cincinnati

The center commemorates the history of the Underground Railroad, which are, of course, the hidden routes of safe houses 19th-century slaves used to reach free states and Canada. 

The museum is located in downtown Cincinnati right along the banks of the Ohio River. The river served as the natural barrier that separated the southern slave states from the northern free states.

Among other things, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center features historic artifacts and important exhibits, such as the Rosa Parks Experience.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park; Atlanta

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park explores the life and influence of one of America's greatest leaders. You can visit Martin Luther King, Jr.'s boyhood home, and gravesite.

It also features the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was baptized and his father, maternal grandfather, and he were pastors.

By the way, while you're in Atlanta, check out this Must-Do RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument; Dorchester County, Maryland

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was established as a national monument in 2013. It preserves the landscape and stops Tubman used to carry herself and nearly 70 other enslaved people to freedom.

Among other things, the park includes the home of Jacob Jackson, a free African American man, who helped Tubman secretly communicate with her family. Plus, Stewart's Canal, the hand-dug canal where Tubman learned many of the skills that helped her become one of the “conductors” on the Underground Railroad.

National Civil Rights Museum; Memphis

The museum was built around the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968. The National Civil Rights Museum guides visitors through 500 years of African American history, up through the fight for equality in the late 20th century.

Expanded in 2014, the museum now features 260 artifacts, as well as tons of films, oral histories, and interactive media.

Motown Historical Museum; Detroit

We're lucky to have this one right in our own backyard — the place where The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and dozens of other groundbreaking African American artists recorded their hits.

It's Motown Records Studio A, which is part of the Motown Historical Museum that displays the history and influence of the record label. You can also see the founder Berry Gordy's restored upper flat, where he lived with his young family as he was first building what would become a culture-changing company.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Birmingham, Alabama

An interpretative, self-directed museum that takes visitors through the challenges and perseverance of the American civil rights movement and the city's contribution to it. If you're going, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is located right where much of the historic struggle took place, in the heart of the city's Civil Rights District, near the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, and the Carver Theater.

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House; Washington, D.C.

Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and civil rights activist who established a school for girls in Florida that would go on to become Bethune-Cookman University.

When Bethune was offered a position with Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration in 1935, she relocated to Washington, D.C. In the townhouse where she lived, she founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).

Mary McLeod Bethune Council House has been transformed into a national historic site that offers details about her remarkable accomplishments.

Malcolm X Birthsite; Omaha

On May 19, 1925, Malcolm X was born in University Hospital Omaha before he was taken home to 3448 Pinkney Street.

Although the actual house no longer exists, the site of the civil rights leader's first childhood home has been transformed into a 14-acre memorial named Malcolm X Birthsite.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; Washington, D.C.

Most people know that Frederick Douglass was a leading voice in the abolitionist movement. After escaping slavery at a young age, he dedicated his life to the fight for justice and equality.

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site commemorates his contributions and accomplishments at Cedar Hill, the beautiful colonial mansion where he lived until his death in 1895. This is a great place to visit anytime, but especially during Black History Month. 

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument; Wilberforce, Ohio

Charles Young was born into slavery, but he went on to become the third African-American graduate of West Point and the highest-ranking black officer in the U.S. Army.

The large home he purchased in 1907, which he christened “Youngsholm,” was once used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It then became the social hub of the notable figures in Young's circle.

Today, Youngsholm is the base of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, which honors Young and the Buffalo Soldiers he commanded.

Speaking of Ohio, there's another interesting sight to visit Off the Beaten Path: A Real Saint's Very Special Wagon.

Visit These Black History Sites Year-Round

Of course, Black History Month is an ideal time to visit these destinations as they usually hold special events. However, there's never a bad time to visit and learn from these black history sites.

In fact, if wish to avoid crowds and take your time at the exhibits, you'll probably want to visit outside of Black History Month.

Have You Been to the Black History Sites?

We'd love to hear about your experiences at any of the black history sites. Let us know what time of year you went, and what your favorite things were. See the comment section below!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-09-23

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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