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Black History Month is honored officially every February but celebrated nationwide all year long.
Black history is U.S. history, and Black History Month is observed nationwide each February with festivals and events paying homage. Year-round, institutions throughout the country provide insight into the struggles of slavery, the Civil Rights movement and that still occur today. Museums honor individuals and groups who fought to make the world a better place through groundbreaking music, key innovations and enduring strength. The below is just a sampling of the incredible places travelers can venture for reflection and celebration.
The Civil Rights Movement: Past, Present and Future
Looking back helps everyone remember how far we have come and those who put everything on the line for future generations. In Alabama, a pivotal Civil Rights battleground, the Birmingham Civil Rights District’s six-block area emphasizes important congregating areas like the 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. The Civil Rights movement can be explored more deeply at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Learn about Freedom Riders’ non-violent fight to end segregation on all interstate transportation at the Freedom Rides Museum nearby in Montgomery. Reflect on the Selma to Montgomery marches at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. Wartime tragedies and triumphs of Black Americans are on display at the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Museum in Tuskegee.
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, preserves African American culture in immersive exhibits and educational programs, while on the other side of the state in Memphis, the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated now memorializes him and other historical milestones as the Smithsonian-affiliated National Civil Rights Museum. King’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, honors the movement at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. At the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, visitors can learn about sit-ins and other peaceful acts of protest.
Statues in front of the 16th Street Baptist Church in the Birmingham Civil Rights District in Alabama
Honoring Those Who Influenced Change
Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., holds over 40,000 objects in its 10-story building. In Chicago, Illinois, the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center and the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, both in the city’s southside, house exhibits, concerts, films, events and literary discussions dedicated to preserving Black culture. Learn about African Americans’ participation in the national pastime at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. The community’s additions to the art world are on display in Dallas, Texas, at the African American Art Museum. The vast contributions of Black service members are recognized at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. In Charleston, South Carolina, the International African American Museum is scheduled to open in 2023.
Exterior of the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C.
Paying Respect to Those Who Came Before
These institutes are just a few that pay homage to those who have inspired Americans to work for a better and brighter future. The story of a famed abolitionist is told at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York, while the larger story of slaves escaping to the north is enshrined at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ accomplishments are retold at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. The Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, teaches visitors about the woman who rightfully refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, sparking successful bus boycotts. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia, speaks of the great man who had a dream. Learn about the exceptional mind of George Washington Carver at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Exhibits focused on the life of “The Greatest” are found at the Muhammad Ali Center in the boxer’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Documenting the legacy of the USA’s first Black president Barack Obama, the Obama Presidential Center is coming soon to the Jackson Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois.
Cascading Water memorial at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta
Music That Changed the Nation
The Black American experience also comes to life through music. Experiences in Tennessee include the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis and the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville. Both jazz and blues music are quintessential Black American creations. Jazz is honored at the New Orleans Jazz Museum in Louisiana and at the National Jazz Museum in New York City, New York. Two spots to get a feel for the blues include the National Blues Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, and the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi. All the greats of Motown are celebrated at the Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan, while the history and culture of hip hop are on display at the Universal Hip Hop Museum in The Bronx, New York.
Exhibit at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi
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