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Black Heritage Travel: Southeastern United States
"Been There!" = Notes about places I've visited.

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Alabama Florida Georgia North Carolina
South Carolina West Virginia Additional Resources Home  

Alabama

Civil Rights Trail - Alabama Bureau of Travel and Tourism

"Walk in the footsteps of African-American heroes who challenged and overthrew segregation laws that denied them the use of public accommodations and the right to vote. Visit the actual sites in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and Tuskegee where events that galvanized the world also made a nation view its fellow men and women with equality and respect." Tour sites include the Rosa Parks Museum, Edmund Pettus Bridge, National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. You can also connect to regional travel bureaus contact information, get dining and lodging information. Download the free brochure.

Selma to Montgomery March Historic Trail - National Park Service

The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks--and three events--that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. This itinerary visits the historic sites along this trail.

Birmingham - Civil Rights Institute

"Inspired by our civil rights past, our mission is to encourage communication and reconciliation of human rights issues worldwide, and to serve as a depository for civil rights archives and documents." At this content rich site you can take a virtual tour of all their galleries online, or get information for a live visit.

Birmingham - Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame

"This art-deco museum honors great jazz artists with ties to the state of Alabama. While furnishing educational information, the museum is also a place for entertainment. Exhibits convey the accomplishments of the likes of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins and the music that made them famous. Within this fine musical collection, visitors travel from the beginnings of boogie woogie with Clarence "Pinetop" Smith to the jazz space journeys of Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Space Arkestra."

Learn about events, educational programs, the inductees, visitor information and more.

Montgomery - Rosa Parks Library and Museum

"The Museum is a major landmark in the revitalization of downtown Montgomery constructed on the site of the old Empire Theatre where Mrs. Parks made her courageous and historic stand in 1955. The interpretive museum occupies the first floor and 7000 square feet of a three-story, 55,000 square foot building that also contains the TROY-Montgomery Campus Library. It includes space for permanent and special exhibits as well as a 103-seat, 2200 square foot multimedia auditorium. In a non-violent and non-threatening manner, six distinct and unique areas inside the museum tell the story of bravery and courage of early civil rights soldiers.

"Artifacts include a restored 1955 station wagon, a replica of the public bus on which Mrs. Parks was sitting that day and original historical documents of that era loaned by the City of Montgomery."

Selma - National Voting Rights Museum

"The primary purpose of the museum is to design and create a repository of source materials on American history during the Voting Rights struggle.This unique grassroots museum, located at the foot of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, documents the history of voting rights in America and brings to life the pivotal events leading up to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

You'll find visitor information, an online tour, voter education materials and more.

Tuskegee - Tuskegee Airman National Historic Site

"Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is currently housed in a temporary visitor center. The visitor center houses exhibits and a 30-seat auditorium where five historic films that tell different aspects of the Tuskegee Airmen Story are shown." Downhill is Historic Moton Field, site of primary flight training for the pilots. The site is being restored to create the Moton Field Historic Complex.

Tuskegee - Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site - George Washington Carver Museum

"The legacy of the legacy of Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and many others has been preserved in the Historic Campus District of Tuskegee University where original buildings constructed by the students, from bricks made in the Institute brickyard still stand. The Site, located on the campus of present day Tuskegee University, became a part of the National Park System in 1974." You can take an online tour, view a video, and learn more about visiting the site.

 

Georgia

Albany - Albany Civil Rights Museum (Mt. Zion Church)

The church was the site of many mass civil rights meetings, and today the museum preserves the images, music and oral histories of the era.

Athens African American Heritage Tour - Athens Convention & Visitor's Bureau

This self-guided tour includes some of Athens' most significant historic sites and offers insight into the lives of some of Athens' most prominent citizens. Sites along the tour include the building which housed the first black maternity hospital, Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, and the Morton Theatre. You can also download an 8-page pdf of the tour.

Athens - The Morton Theater

Built by Monroe Bowers 'Pink' Morton in 1910, this is one of the oldest surviving vaudeville theatres built, owned, and operated by an African American, . The fully restored Morton Theater presents a wide range of dramatic and musical performances. This site provides a history, tour information, events schedule, rental information and visitor information.

Atlanta - Atlanta Heritage Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Atlanta is known for its rich African-American culture. Home of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, the National Black Arts Festival and the largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities, Atlanta is a culturally diverse city. This rich site provides a timeline of Significant Events in African-American History and Atlanta History, sample itineraries with links to walking tours, black history plaques and monuments, area attractions and more. Also places to dine, lodge, shop and worship.

Atlanta - Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site was established in 1980 to protect and interpret the places where Dr. King was born (January 15, 1929) worked, worshipped and is buried. Learn about special events, educational programs, and see a picture of King's birthplace. Freedom Hall is the King Center's primary exhibition facility.

Atlanta - Atlanta Auburn Avenue Research Library

"The first library of its kind in the southeast offering specialized reference and archival collections for the study and research of African cultures. The library is a public facility with non-circulating collections, services and programs free and open to the general public." Website has their newsletter, events listing, information about the collections, including digital collections, and more.

Atlanta - Spellman College Museum of Fine Art

The Museum is an academic resource for Spelman College students, faculty, staff, administration and alumnae, but the museum’s exhibitions and programs are open to art enthusiasts of all ages. You'll find visitor information, plus information about past, present and future exhibitions and educational programs at the website.

Augusta - Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History

Housed in the restored former home of educator Ms. Lucy Craft Laney, this is the only African-American Museum in the Central Savannah River Area. The museum has four permanent exhibits: The Ebony Legacy, the Alice Davis Collection, the Pilgrim Health and Life Exhibition, and the Charles Smith Collection. Annual and rotating exhibits - such as the Women's Exhibit and the Quilting Exhibit - are displayed at the museum throughout the entire year. Rotating exhibits provide a venue for local and Southern artists. At the website you can take a virtual tour, find a biography of Ms. Laney, information about exhibits, a calendar of events and educational programs and more.

Columbus -Convention & Visitors Bureau

African-Americans have played a significant role in the growth and development of this city, a heritage you can explore through a self-guided tour which begins at the last home of Gertrude Pridget "Ma" Rainey and culminates with a tour of some of the historic black churches. You can download a pdf, or request a paper version by mail. And of course you'll find lots of information about lodging, dining, shopping and other attractions at the CVB website.

Eatonton - Uncle Remus Museum

The popular Uncle Remus tales "written" by Joel Chandler Harris are recreations of African American trickster stories heard from slaves in his youth. Though not technically an African American museum, this site is still interesting as it is housed in 3 former Putnam County slave cabins. Read more about the history and controversy of the tales at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Eastonton is also the birthplace of Alice Walker.

Macon - Georgia Music Hall of Fame

Houses history and memorabilia of musicians such as Otis Redding, Lena Horne, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard and others. Visitors to the 43,000 sq. ft. museum enjoy an educational and entertaining experience featuring interactive exhibits, library, memorabilia, music and interpretive text. This rich website is a tour in itself, featuring interactive maps, the Georgia Music Trail, events, tourist and trip planning information and much more.

Macon - Tubman African American Museum

African American art, history & culture. Established in 1985, it houses fourteen galleries devoted to a range of black American life, including the cuisine of Africa and America, local history, military leaders and more. At the website you'll find information about past, present, future and travelling exhibitions, events, trip planning and more.

Madison - Morgan County African-American Museum

Preserving African-American heritage and promoting awareness of the contributions the African-American has made to the culture of the South. Located in the Horace Moore House, c.1895. Take a virtual tour online, or learn how you can visit.

Savannah's Black Heritage Brochure - Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau

Savannah enjoys more than 250 years of African-American heritage and features a number of historic sites, museums and tours that focus on the African-American experience. The brochure highlights the locations around the city that have preserved African American heritage. It introduces visitors to five of the oldest, continuous black congregations in America and Savannah's many cultural attractions including the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Beach Institute, King-Tisdell Cottage and Savannah State University. The SAVCVB website also provides lodging, dining and other tourist information such as a calendar of festivals and other special events. The CVB offers a group tour entitled African Influence.

Savannah - Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum (912) 231-8900

Named "Georgia's Best New History Museum" by the Georgia Journal, the museum is located in historic Savannah in a five level building that was erected in 1914 as the Wage Earners Savings and Loan Bank for Black Savannahians, the largest Black bank in the country at that time. Unfortunately, though the website has historical information it doesn't appear to have been updated since 1998, so it would be wise to call before scheduling a visit.

Thomasville - Jack Hadley Black History Museum

Thousands of collectible artifacts, documents, books, prints, posters and photos chronicling Black History locally and nationally can be found on the former campus of Douglass High School in Thomasville, a black school that was segregated from 1902-1970. In addition to visitor information, the website has a wealth of photos and historical information. You'll also find the Thomasville Black Heritage Trail Tour Guide here.

The Golden Cresent - National Park Service

"On isolated coastal plantations, enslaved blacks created the unique Gullah culture, based on mixed European and African elements. At the center of Gullah culture was the Gullah language, which drew most of its vocabulary from English and its grammar from West African languages. Other aspects of Gullah culture included musical and dance styles of African origin and a Christianity infused with African spirituality and emotionalism. African storytelling traditions survived in tales of "Brer Rabbit" and "Brer Bear," tales in which the weak often outsmarted the strong. Features of this rich cultural heritage survive in many crescent communities."

South Carolina - Everything you need is easily found at one website!

Discover South Carolina's African American History and Culture - South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

This comprehensive and easy to navigate site is a goldmine of information for African American heritage travelers! Click on the direct link above, or visit via the DiscoverCarolina.com Home Page » See & Do » History & Heritage » African American, and you'll discover detailed historical background information, travel information, and websites for nearly 100 historical landmarks, museums and interpretive centers, each with a map for quick location. The Black History Adventure is a sample 6-day itinerary.

Download these articles from their magazine Smiles:

African American Historical Monument
Cecil Williams: Portraits of Civil Rights
Dori Sanders
The Heritage of our African Art
Gullah Spirituals

Bishopville - Pearl Fryar's Topiary Garden

Pearl Fryar began work on the 3 acre garden in 1984 in an effort to win "Yard of the Month" for his home on the outskirts of Bishopville, SC. The well-manicured, sculptural plant forms that comprise Fryar's living vision of peace, love and goodwill often times began as salvaged seedlings from a local nursery. Recognized by art and botanical enthusiasts, the visually whimsical garden is maintained year-round by Fryar for visitors from around the world. You'll find visitor information at the website, along with biographical information, events and an online gallery. (I didn't find this site in the African American guide, so I list it separately because it's a Do Not Miss!)

West Virginia

West Virginia Division of Tourism - African American History in West Virginia

This brief but informative essay provides general historical background, plus information about notable African Americans born in WV, including Henry Louis Gates JR. and Bishop T.D. Jakes. There is also a map with notes about related sites on the National Historic Register.

Ansted - African-American Family Tree Museum

Charleston - Elizabeth Harden Gilmore House

The first woman to be licensed as a funeral director in Kanawha County, Elizabeth Harden Gilmore was a tireless pioneer for Civil Rights, and co-founded the local chapter of CORE

Charles Town - Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society Inc. Black History Tour

Twenty-four historical sites are explored in the self-guided Black History Tour created by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society Inc. (JCBHPS). You can experience the tour online. A brochure outlining the tour is available at the Jefferson County Convention and Visitor's Bureau in historic downtown Charles Town. Call 304- 728-3939 for hours of operation and additional information. Or contact the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society at 304 725-7242.

Black Schools of Jefferson County, West Virginia - Jefferson County Convention & Visitor Bureau

Photos and brief histories of 25 schools, some of which still stand, such as the Halltown Colored School, built in 1908 and which remained open until 1930. The building still stands today and is located behind the Halltown Memorial Chapel. Compiled by the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society.

Clifftop - Camp Washington-Carver

Originally named The Negro 4-H Camp when it was dedicated in 1942, Washington-Carver was a center serving from 200 to 1,600 black youth in vocational agriculture, soil conservation, home economics, and 4-H standards. Today it is a beautiful retreat listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as the state's mountain cultural arts center, and offers programs like the African-American Heritage Arts Camp. You'll find upcoming events listed at the website, and you'll find a Virtual Tour, chronology and historical documents at the website of Marshall University.

Malden / Charleston -Booker T. Washington Institute

In 2000, West Virginia State College, the Booker T. Washington Association, the Midland Trail, and Cabin Creek Quilts Cooperative signed an agreement to work together to promote Booker T. Washington's Boyhood Home and the ideals he stood for. This site provides information about programs offered, as well as a guide to Washington-related historical sites in the area, such as African Zion Baptist Church.

Been There! Parkersburg - Sumnerite African American Museum

The museum is housed in the former Sumner School, established in 1862 as the first free school in West Virginia, two years before the state had a public school system. In addition to housing displays of Sumner School memorabilia and hosting special events, the Museum serves as a community center. It's definitely worth a stop if you're going to be in the area, but call first since tours are by appointment. This is one of those small, volunteer-run places with a passion for preserving an important and personal part of African American heritage; I was delighted to be given a tour by a former student.

Harper's Ferry
Frederick Douglas at Harper's Ferry

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Among other things, it is the site of John Brown's attack on slavery, the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States, and the meeting of the Second Niagara Movement Conference. You'll find several museums and interpretive sites here, including one of the first black colleges in the South, the former Storer College (now Mather Training Center) Museum and the Black Voices Museum.

 

Additional Resources

On The Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. Charles E. Cobb Jr. Algonquin Books, NC. 2008 Order at Amazon.com

I became interested in this book when I heard the author, Charles Cobb Jr. interviewed on NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Cobb is a veteran of the civil rights movement and a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He spoke about sitting on the steps of a middle school in Medgar Evers’ old neighborhood, across from the Fannie Lou Hamer Library, trying to engage some kids in conversation about the movement in Mississippi. When he told them he’d known Mrs. Hamer, a little boy said in amazement “YOU were alive back then?!”

That’s when he realized the era was fading into ancient history, viewed as a mass movement led by a few charismatic and long dead leaders. This book - part memoir, part travel guide, part history book - is intended to capture the deeper meaning of the fight for civil rights, community grassroots organizing and thousands of independent acts of courage reaching further back than the 1960’s...in fact, he said, the movement probably began as soon as the first African stepped off the ship in chains and began thinking of how to escape.

With Cobb as our personal guide we travel through Washington D.C. and eight Southern states. But this is so much more than just a visitor’s guide to historic sites, museums and plaques. Nearly every page is graced with photos, quotes from interviews, songs, letters, or key documents. We get to know the men and women not mentioned in the “Civil Rights Canon,” the everyday yet heroic people fighting for justice and equality in their own back yards.

Academicians will be happy with the careful citing of sources in end notes; general readers will be delighted with the compelling narrative flow. It’s the sort of book I find myself reading twice: first skimming through to read all the fascinating sidebars, then reading through state by state. If I had a “favorite book of the year” this would be it for 2008. It belongs on the shelf of every school and community library.

Columbus, GA: African-American Heritage. Judith Grant. Arcadia Publishing 1999. Order at Amazon.com

Travel the Black Heritage Trail. The sites and markers are loacted in what is referred to today as "Uptown Columbus" and cover 8 miles. Maintained by the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, the trail encompasses several genrations of AFrican-American residents, highlighting their notable contibutions to the community.

 

Black Heritage Sites: The South. Nancy C. Curtis. New Press 1998 Order at Amazon.com

This volume includes descriptions and detailed visitor information for hundreds of places of national and local significance, from churches and schools to battlefields and cemeteries, from stops on the Underground Railroad to landmarks of the 1950s civil rights movement. Black Heritage Sites is perfect for travelers and historians of all kinds--from the family planning a cross-country trip to the armchair traveler interested in gaining a unique perspective on African American history.

African American Historic Places. Savage, Beth L. Wiley, 2005 Order at Amazon.com

Features 800 sites on the National Historic Register which relate to African American History. Organized by 41 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Because it is designed as an identification tool rather than as a trip planner, the book lists only addresses and does not note telephone numbers, access policies, or admission charges. The introduction, however, notes that approximately three-fourths of the properties are privately owned and not open to the public. Black-and-white photographs are provided for some of the sites, and eight introductory essays provide context for understanding the historical significance of the sites.

A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement. Jim Carrier. Harcourt Books, 2004. Order at Amazon.com

This book is fascinating even if you never leave home. It's both a travel guide and a reference for anyone wanting to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. But it's not limited to modern times; like many historians, the author takes the view that the struggle for civil rights began the moment the first enslaved African set foot on these shores and tried to break free. And it continued anywhere that people fought for dignity and equality. Consequently, the sites described here include sites of slave rebellions, legal battles, Underground Railroad safe houses, historically black colleges, churches, museums...even the minor league stadium in Florida where Jackie Robinson broke through the color line.

Historic Landmarks of Black America. Canter, George. Gale Group, 1991. Order at Amazon.com

Describes over 300 sites across the US and Canada, with entries ranging from a paragraph to several pages, with lots of illustrations. Each includes a historical sketch detailing the site's significance and practical information such as directions, hours, fees, and related sites....which of course you'd want to doublecheck before traveling! This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available cheap through used booksellers at Amazon.com.

In Their Footsteps: The American Visions Guide to African-American Historical Sites. Chase, Henry. Owlet, 1994. Order at Amazon.com

Similar to Canter's Historic Landmarks, but more comprehensive covering 46 states, Ontario and Nova Scotia. This book is out of print (and out of date) but still useful and available through used booksellers at Amazon.com.

Hippocrene U.S.A. Guide to Historic Black South: Historical Sites, Cultural Centers, and Musical Happenings of the African-American South . James Haskins & Joann Biondi. Hippocrene Books 1993. Order at Amazon.com

Covers a region of nine Southern states and the District of Columbia, pointing out churches, gravesites, historic locations, nightclubs, museums, art galleries, schools, markets, and jazz and blues landmarks. We venture to Jackie Robinson Baseball Park in Daytona Beach, Florida, for example, where Robinson played his first major league game, and to the Alex Haley Home and Museum in Henning, Tennessee. Each chapter includes a brief section on the history of that state and then lists sites in the various cities.

 

 

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