In honor of Black History Month, I recently spent some time in the Northwest region of the United States visiting, researching and writing about the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, WA. It was a pleasure to discover so much rich Black History in such an unexpected place. It caused me to wonder what other destinations around the US hold significant stories about the black experience in America. I did a bit of research and have recorded some of my favorite off-the-radar places that celebrate Black History.
This image of a runaway notice is part of our Free & Safe exhibit here at Rokeby. When a slave ran away it was a serious economic loss for the slave owner, so some placed advertisements seeking to have their “property” returned. Many of the notices included precise descriptions that specified the slave’s appearance, personality, speech, abilities and background. Although these documents are part of the tragic story of American slavery, today they provide historians with a rich record of who these men or women were. They bring runaway slaves vividly to life and remind us that, though regarded by owners and the law as property, they were in fact unique individuals. . . . . . . #rokebymuseum #freeandsafe #undergroundrailroad #africanamericanhistory #americanslavery #blackhistory #history #slavery #history #knowyourhistory #abolition #civilrights #abolitionist
Vermont has its very own African American Heritage Trail that offers visitors the chance to explore history through a collection of museums, exhibits, films, tours, and more. The attractions feature African Americans that have an association or connection to Vermont. One of their award-winning attractions at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, is an exhibit called “Free and Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont”. It covers the story of Simon and Jesse, two fugitives from slavery that were sheltered at Rokeby in the 1830s.
The Maine Human Rights Coalition is in its third year of hosting a celebration of Black History Month at the University of Maine. It consists of choirs, speeches, and theatre performances. Families and children are encouraged to attend. According to their website, some of the earliest evidence of African Americans in the state are receipts for purchase or sale of slaves. Slavery was infrequent in colonial Maine and outlawed by Massachusetts, and hence in its District of Maine, after the American Revolution.
While Motor City has experienced a major economic and demographic decline, it’s home to one of the most highly regarded locations connected to Black History and music. The Motown Museum, home of the legendary “Hitsville U.S.A.”, has proudly served the community throughout the years. Since 1985 it has been known as one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, with visitors traveling far and wide to check out the famous “Studio A”, where some of their favorite black superstars like the Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson 5 recorded their timeless classics.
The Courier-Journal in Louisville has listed over 25 different black history events that both locals and visitors can take part in. From movie screenings to socials to lectures and more, they offer a wealth of things to do from week to week that will satisfy an appetite for anyone that desires to immerse themselves into African American history and culture. Kentucky is also significant to black history because it is the home of Simmons College, an African American college that was founded in 1879 by former slaves in order to train the sons and daughters of fellow African Americans.
The Granite State has a self-guided walking tour called The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. The trail takes visitors to the places where African Americans lived, worked, served, and even founded institutions. The trail also places a focus on the Civil Rights movement that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, and it recently initiated a series called Tea Talks, which is a series of lectures related to New Hampshire’s unknown history of people of color.
Churches and community organizations come together every February to celebrate Black History Month in North Central West Virginia. Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of black history, is a native of Huntington, while Booker T. Washington, who was a prominent African-American leader, was raised near Charleston. While only 3% of the state’s population is black, you can expect to find plenty of events, lectures, and performances that celebrate black history in West Virginia during the month of February and beyond.
Have you ever heard of or visited any of these places? Have you discovered some other under-the-radar places that celebrate black history?