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Black Heritage Travel: Upper Midwestern United States
"Been There!" = Notes about places I've visited.
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Underground Railroad Sites in Indiana - Indiana Historical Bureau

This website provides a list of and background information for historical markers by county. You'll also find related articles and research resources, and learn more about historic sites which are currently being researched. Also, be sure to visit their African American Resources section for an annotated listing of regional books you can buy and articles you can download.

Crawfordsville - Speed Cabin

Currently located on the grounds of the Lane Place Museum, this cookshed was used by John Speed, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The museums are maintained by the Montgomery County Historical Society. You'll find historical and visitor information at their website.

Fort Wayne - African American Historical Museum

The history of this museum is repeated around the country: In 1975, two African American teachers, Hana Stith and Miles Edwards, started working with the Allen County Historical Museum and soon realized that the local museum had not preserved African American History. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands, forming the African American Historical Association to collect, preserve and display the artifacts of black heritage. Twenty-five years later that dream became a reality in 2000 with the opening of the African American Historical Museum. By 2008 they had 10 small exhibits and are still developing. Learn more about the museum's history and future plans at their website.

Fountain City (Newport) - Levi Coffin House State Historic Site

Levi and Catharine Coffin were legendary in helping many former slaves escape to freedom in the North. They used this home in Indiana to help more than 2000 escaping slaves before moving to Cincinnati in order to serve the cause of the Underground Railroad even more effectively. The website provides visitor resources as well as historical information and many useful links.

Indianapolis- Bethel A.M.E.

Bethel A.M.E is the oldest African American church in Indianapolis. This link takes you to the historical information page at the National Park Service, but if you want to know what members are up to today, you'll also find them on Facebook.

Indianapolis - Crispus Attucks Museum

Housed in the first African American high school in Indianapolis, this four-gallery museum celebrates the contributions of African Americans across the United States.

Indianapolis - Freetown Village

Freetown Village is a living history museum which depicts the lives and lifestyles of free African Americans in the year 1870. The geographical focus is in the old Fourth Ward, the oldest African American settlement in Indianapolis. One unique special event is the Freetown Dinner which "takes you back to taste first-hand a slice (or two) of the lives of African Americans."

Indianapolis - Madame Walker Theatre Center

Madame Walker , the first self-made female millionare in America, began the development of the Walker Building and Theatre prior to her death in 1919. The project was subsequently completed by her daughter, A'Lelia Walker, and opened to the public in December 1927. Today it serves as a forum for arts and culture from an African American perspective. At the website you'll find a calendar of events and productions, visitor information, history and more.

Indianapolis - Indiana War Memorial Plaza

View the "Military Heritage of Black Americans in National Defense" with photos and documents from Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen, and soldiers from the Vietnam, World War II, Korea, Spanish American, American Revolution, and Civil War.

Bloomington - Archives of African American Music & Culture at Indiana University

A repository of materials covering musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. The AAAMC supports the research of scholars, students, and the general public from around the world by providing access to oral histories, photographs, musical and print manuscripts, audio and video recordings, and educational broadcast programs, among other holdings. In addition to visitor information, events and news, you'll find a wealth of resources at their website.


African-Americans in Iowa, 1838-2005 Iowa Pathways: History Resources for Teachers Iowa Public Television

Interconnected articles, artifacts, exhibits and lesson plans.

Cedar Rapids - African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa

The permanant exhibit offers a fascinating overview of the history of African Americans in the United States with specific focus on Iowa. Included are sections on plantation life and slavery; the Abolitionist and Anti-Slavery Movement Era; the Iowa Migration and Underground Railroad Era; Civil War and Reconstruction; Military History and Church Activity. The Africa Gallery takes visitors to West Africa, where they pass through the "Door of No Return" and enter a slave ship to experience the famous "Middle Passage" from Africa to Iowa. "African Americans in Iowa" includes sections on Arts & Entertainment; Agriculture; Athletics; Legal Aspects; Occupations and Small Business. The website provides a virtual tour, as well as visitor information, events calendar, educational opportunities and more. The website also has an appeal to "packrats" to provide materials for the growing collection.

Been There! Des Moines - Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center

7/24/14 The museum is currently closed while the board seeks to reduce debt. Check their Facebook page for updates.

Fort Des Moines was the site of the U.S. Army's first and only officer candidate class for African American men, graduating 639 men as commissioned officers in 1917. Highly educated doctors, lawyers and teachers were among the ranks. In 1942, Fort Des Moines hosted the formation of the first Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, later renamed the Women's Army Corps (WAC.) That program trained 72,000 women and commissioned the first female officers for non-combat duty until 1942.

The museum and education center honors both, and also has a memorial honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, who were trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee Alabama (Iowa had twelve graduate airmen.) The content rich website provides histories, photo gallery, graduates of the 17th Provisional Training Regiment (1917) graduates of the first WAAC OCS (1942), events, visitor information and much more.

I only had 30 minutes to explore this museum while on a lunch break and quickly realized I needed much more to do it any justice, so plan at least 90 minutes for your visit. I was fortunate to receive an overview from Michael Kates, the Education Coordinator. All of the exhibits go far beyond simply displaying artifacts of the period...everything is placed in context of the times and though the museum celebrates achievement in a way that makes us all proud, the history of the segregated army is not sugar-coated. It's sobering to realize how hard African Americans worked to be permitted to protect their country, at a time when their country wasn't protecting even their most basic civil rights. The museum is located in Clayton Hall (built in 1901 and restored in 2004.) I encourage you to pause for a bit on the porch after your tour...if you listen closely, you'll hear the footsteps of history.

Clayton Hall,
Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center

Been There! Des Moines - State Historical Society of Iowa

Patten's Neighborhood: Memories of the Center Street Community features materials from Robert E. Patten, who operated a Des Moines printing business serving the African-American community from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Patten had saved many of the items he printed, from tickets and posters to party invitations and family portraits, intending to one day open a museum. In this small permanent exhibit, the items are supplemented by newspaper images and text, providing a glimpse into the social world of African Americans in Des Moines. By nature, this exhibit contains a lot of text, but "Discovery Drawers" help make it more accessible to children...I saw many school kids eagerly exploring those drawers during my visit! My only criticism is the exhibit didn't address the demise of the neighborhood which - like so many black communities across America - was divided and destroyed by so-called "urban renewal" in general and the interstate highway system in particular.

Des Moines (West) - Historic Jordan House

This stately Victorian home served as a station on the Underground Railroad. It is now home to the West Des Moines Historical Society, and houses an Underground Railroad exhibit in addition to other exhibits on local history. The website provides a history of the house, visitor information and special events.

Indianola - Warren County Historical Museum Hwy. 92 W, Indianola, IA (515) 961-2600

In 1890, having been refused admission at colleges in Missouri and Kansas due to his race, George Washington Carver attended Simpson College in Indianola. The museum's Carver exhibit includes the shack where he lived and ran a one-man laundry to support himself while a student.

Lewis - Hitchcock House

This house was a station on the Underground Railroad and preserves that heritage through exhibits and special programs. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004.

Lewis - Nishnabotna Ferry House

This is a rare surviving ferry keeper's home. The cable ferry in operation 1857-1859 was purportedly used by fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad.

Salem - Lewelling House and Quaker Museum

Henderson Lewelling built this house as a refuge for fugitive slaves travelling the Underground Railroad. Exhibits and artifacts recall those times.

Tabor - The Todd House Museum (NPS website) Museum Website

Built in 1853, this reverend's parsonage was a stop on the Underground Railroad and an arsenal for anti-slavery forces. Open by appointment.



Michigan Freedom Trail

"In 1998, Public Act 409 established the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission and directed it to preserve, protect and promote the legacy of the Freedom Trail in Michigan. This heritage of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) and the antislavery movement in Michigan is as rich and multifaceted as our state's heritage of the Great Lakes, the automobile and lighthouses." This trail is a work in progress, but you'll find related resources at the website.

Adrian - Lenawee County Historical Museum

Elizabeth Chandler and Laura Haviland launched Michigan's first antislavery society in Adrian in the early 1830's. The museum has exhibits about the Underground Railroad, and also other aspect of black history in the community. At the website you'll find visitor information and historical articles.

Ann Arbor - Another Ann Arbor: The African American Community in Washtenaw County

This organization was founded in 1989 to promote the history, culture, and concerns of African Americans in Washtenaw County. The rich website provides area history, news, events, plus business and organizations. Also learn about plans to create a permenant home for the African American Cultural and Historical Museum.

Battle Creek - Sojourner Truth Institute/ Sojourner Truth Monument Park

Sojourner Truth bought a home in the community of Battle Creek in the late 1850's, and stayed until midway through the Civil War when she temporarily relocated to Washington D.C. to work with the relief effort during and after the war. She died in her home in Battle Creek in 1883, and is buried with family members in Oak Hill Cemetery. This website provides visitor information for the Sojourner Truth Monument Park, dedicated in 1999, and also virtual exhibitions featuring history, artifacts and more. You'll also want to visit the Underground Railroad Monument, Battle Creek Linear Park between Capital Avenue and N. Division Street.

Battle Creek - Kimball House Museum

Home to three generations of doctors, the Kimball House is now a museum providing insight into upper-middle class life in 19th Century Battle Creek. The Sojourner Truth Exhibit Room contains one of the largest collections of images and artifacts about the nationally famous ex-slave abolition leader in the country, including her only known signature. This website seems to be a work in progress, as some of the main links don't yet function, so I recommend you call directly for visitor information at (269)966-2496 or (269) 965-2613.

Battle Creek - Memories From Hamblin: The Making and Unmaking of Battle Creek's African American Community (Online exhibition only)

"Ask one of Battle Creek's younger residents about the Bottoms and you will likely get a blank stare. The area, long erased from the city's social geography, has been forgotten by many Battle Creekers. Yet for nearly forty years, the Bottoms was the heart of Battle Creek's African-American community, anchored by places like the Hamblin Community Center. For those who grew up there, the neighborhood's rich cultural history live on in photographs, artifacts, stories, and memories."

Big Rapids - Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University

Founded and curated by David Pilgirm - who began collecting racist memorabilia as a teenager - the museum collects, exhibits and preserves objects and collections related to racial segregation, civil rights and anti-Black caricatures in order to promote the scholarly examination of historical and contemporary expressions of racism. Even if you cannot visit the museum, you'll find a wealth of images and information online. In 2012 the museum relocated to a gleaming new exhibit hall on campus.

Dearborn - The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village

If you don't associate Henry Ford with African American history, a visit to Greenfield Village will surprise you. For example, in 1914, William Perry became the first black man hired at the Ford Motor Company - on the strength of his personal relationship with Henry Ford. Perry and Ford had met over a 3 decades earlier, when the young Ford hired Perry to help him cut and saw wood on the timberland given to him by his father. Impressed by Perry's industriousness, in later years, Ford used the metaphor of sharing a crosscut saw to explain his belief that African Americans and whites should work together with "the colored man [sawing] at one end of the log and the white man at the other."

The Village and Museum have been collecting, preserving and interpreting American heritage since the 1930's. You'll find the Hermitage Slave Houses and the Mattox House (both moved from Georgia and restored) and even the Rosa Parks bus. You'll also see the works of many African-American inventors, including Elijah "the Real" McCoy, Lewis Latimore and Garrett A. Morgan (inventor of the first traffic light). Special events and exhibitions highlight various aspects of African American heritage. The rich website has photo collections, visitor information and more.

Detroit - Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau

Detroit has been designated the first authenticated African American Heritage Destination in the world by the Travel Professionals of Color. This organization promotes training, networking and support of minority travel professionals. It’s little surprise, given the area’s rich and thriving African-American culture. Use the Search box at their website for tour info and more.

Detroit - Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Founded in 1965 by Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynecologist, the museum exists to serve Metropolitan Detroit and national communities by providing exceptional exhibitions and programs based on outstanding collections and research that explore the diversity of African American history and culture. It features both permanent and special exhibitions, and the current "third generation" museum (located in Detroit's Cultural Center) is a 120,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, the largest museum in the world dedicated to the struggles and perseverance of African Americans. Artifacts range from a cradle used by slave mothers in the fields to the NASA flight suit worn by astronaut Dr. Mae Jamieson, You'll find visitor information, events calendar, a wealth of educational resources and more at the website.

Detroit - Detroit Historical Museum

Explore Detroit's role in the Underground Railroad, walk the streets of Old Detroit, learn about how cars built Detroit and Detroit built cars, or view special exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. Visitor information, event and exhibit calendars, plus educational resources you can download from the Learning Center are found at this rich website.

Detroit - Detroit Institute of Arts

The DIA's African art collection ranks among the finest in the United States and comprises some rare world-class works from nearly one hundred African cultures, predominantly from regions south of the Sahara desert. Additionally, the museum houses the General Motors Center for African American Art, one of the first curatorial departments dedicated solely to African American art at any major art museum. The Center actively pursues acquisitions and plans exhibitions of the museum's growing permanent collection of African American art. Some of the important artists featured in the collection are Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Robert Colescott, Roy DeCarava, Beauford Delaney, Robert Scott Duncanson, Sam Gilliam, Richard Hunt, Jacob Lawrence, Al Loving, Hughie Lee-Smith, Allie McGhee, Gordon Parks, Howardena Pindell, Martin Puryear, Alison Saar, Augusta Savage, Lorna Simpson, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Robert Thompson, Carrie Mae Weems, William T. Williams and Hale A. Woodruff. At this rich website you'll find visitor information, events and exhibition calendars, educational programs, and you can also view works of art online.

Detroit - Detroit Public Library

The E. Azalia Hackley Collection of Negro Music, Dance and Drama was established in 1943 when original materials were presented to the Library by the Detroit Musicians Association to serve as the nucleus for a special black music collection. Named after a Detroit music educator and performer, the collection quickly broadened its scope to include dance, drama and other forms of the performing arts. The collection is open to serious researchers, and some of it is also available online. You can find out about related special events at their website.

Detroit - First Congregational Church of Detroit

As one of the national forerunners in the Anti-slavery movement, the Congregational Church has a rich history in the Underground Railroad nationally. The lower level of the Church features an Underground Railroad Tour in which visitors have an opportunity to re-enact the roles of escaping slaves. Tour is by reservation only, and you can find more information at the website.

Detroit - International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Founded in 1995, The International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation and education of gospel music and entertainment around the world. See the Wall Of Time and hear of Gospel Music Legends past and present. It is currently housed in the studios of DoRohn Entertainment. Its collections include recordings, documents, photographs and memorabilia. Archivists and music experts are also available to assist students and researchers. Plans are now moving forward to build a new facility for the Hall of Fame and Museum in Detroit. Open by appointment.

Detroit - Motown Historical Museum

Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, the museum's exhibits trace the roots of Motown's remarkable story and chronicle its impact on 20th century popular culture and musical styles. At this rich website you'll find biographies and pictures of Motown Artists, news and special events, visitor information, and even the gift shop.

Detroit - Second Baptist Church

The church was established in 1836 by 13 former slaves, and - given its proximity to Canada - soon became a stop on the Underground Railroad. The present church building replaced the original after a fire in 1914. Over the years, Second Baptist can claim direct, or indirect, influence in the creation of over 30 churches serving or controlled by Blacks. Visitors are welcome., and guided historical tours can be arranged in advance.

Detroit - Tuskegee Airmen Museum

The Tuskegee Airmen are celebrated with model aircrafts, rare photos, vintage uniforms and other exhibits.

(Detroit) Windsor, Ontario - John Freeman Walls Historic Site

"Where the Underground Railroad had it's end." Once an Underground Railroad station, this 20-acre site is run by descendants of slaves who traveled from North Carolina through Detroit to freedom in Canada. Tour guides, called "conductors," bring this journey to life for visitors. Visiting this site requires a border crossing, so you need verification of citizenship: EITHER a birth certificate along with government-issued picture ID (drivers license), OR a passport.

(Detroit) Dresden, Ontario- Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site

Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site commemorates the life of Reverend Josiah Henson and his contributions to the famous Underground Railroad. It was Henson's life experiences that inspired Ms. Stowe's creation of the character Uncle Tom in her 1852 outcry against slavery. The museum ­ built on the site of the Black settlement that Rev. Josiah Henson helped found in 1841 ­ preserves the settlement where Henson and his wife Nancy lived. At the Interpretive Centre, visitors are ushered into The North Star Theatre for a screening of the 30-minute video "Father Henson: His Spirit Lives On." The Underground Railroad Freedom Gallery recounts the history of freedom seekers ­ from being taken from Africa and enslaved in the United States to finding freedom in Canada. Visiting this site requires a border crossing, so you need verification of citizenship: EITHER a birth certificate along with government-issued picture ID (drivers license), OR a passport.

Idlewild - Idlewild African American Chamber of Commerce

Madame C.J. Walker, W.E.B. DuBois, and Charles Chesnutt were only three of the prominant black citizens who owned property at this segregated resort - known as "The Black Eden" - which was founded at the turn of the 20th Century. From the thirties to the sixties, top entertainers including Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Della Reese, Dinah Washington, B.B. King, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis and Bill Cosby performed at Idlewild's clubs. Desegregation spelled the end of that era, but the Idlewild African Amerian Chamber of Commerce works to both preserve the heritage and connect modern business owners. At this rich website you'll find updated events information, links to articles and more.

Lansing - Michigan Historical Museum

This flagship of the Michigan Historical Museum System offers several exhibits of related interest which you can find by entering "African American" into their search box. You can take a tour online, or get more information about events, programs and visiting.

Lansing - All Around the African World Museum and Resource Center 1136 Shepard, Lansing, MI 48912. Phone: (517) 484-7480

Features exhibits about the contributions of African culture to the world.

Schoolcraft - Dr. Nathan Thomas House (NPS website) Schoolcraft Website

The home of one of Michigan's most active Underground Railroad participants. Tours available by appointment only.


Duluth - Clayton, Jackson, Mcghie Memorial

In 1920, three African-American circus workers, held in the Duluth City Jail on false charges of raping a white woman, were dragged by a mob of thousands to First Street and Second Avenue and lynched before a cheering crowd. It was one of many such lynchings which took place around the country at this time, and prompted the creation of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP. Today, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial pays tribute to the three men killed, and the memorial committee has evolved into an ongoing organization committed to educating the public on discrimination issues, building coalitions between like-minded community groups, planning community forums, and working in general to educate the community and area youth on racism. You'll find historical resources, current events and more at the website.

St. Paul - Roy Wilkins Auditorium

Though he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, Civil Rights activist and journalist Roy Wilkins was raised in St. Paul and was proud to call it his home. This entertainment venue - which is one block from the area where Wilkins grew up - was renamed in his honor in 1985. You'll find visitor and events listing - plus a history of "Roy the theater" and "Roy the man" at the website.

St. Paul - Historic Fort Snelling: The Dred Scott Memorial

The historic Dred Scott case was based upon the fact that Scott, a slave, had lived in the free Wisconsin Territory for 5 years; in 1836 he was brought to Fort Snelling as the slave of the fort's surgeon, and there he met and married his wife Harriet. The Supreme Court's infamous decision to deny him his freedom solidified abolitionist sympathies and drew the country closer to civil war. When you visit the fort today, you'll see a Dred Scott Memorial, and there are proposals to expand the interpretive framework with regard to his history. Also the "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 25th Infantry were stationed here for most of the 1880's, and photographs and artifacts here reflect their presence.


Ohio Department of Development, Division of Travel and Tourism

During the era of slavery, Ohio was a beacon of freedom. It fostered the development of world famous authors, amazing artists, brilliant inventors and architects and influential politicians. From station houses on the Underground Railroad to cultural arts centers, Ohio has an abundance of places to explore black history and culture. At this website you'll find an interactive map, attractions and events, itineraries and resources to learn more about Ohio's black history. Download a free brochure Ohio's Underground Railroad Freedom Stations: Traveling the State's Underground Railroad.

Underground Railroad Information Station - Ohio Historical Society

The Ohio Historical Society has a wealth of information for those looking to learn more about this important aspect of American history. You will find many links to pages featuring archival and artifact collections, information for kids and teachers, places to visit and exhibits to discover, including exhibits and events, places to visit, and online collections.

Ohio's Hill Country Heritage Area: Underground Railroad Trail Unavailable 4/10/11 but check them out on Facebook

Ohio's Hill Country Heritage Area encompasses the state's Appalachian region and is one of Ohio's officially designated heritage areas. The region is especially important in Ohio's Underground Railroad history, as many communities along the Ohio River provided safety to fugitive slaves. The website provides a guide to many of the sites, including historical information and self-guided tours.

Ashtabula - Colonel William Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum

William Hubbard was a member of the Ashtabula County Anti-Slavery Society. Hubbard House is an excellent example of life in the Connecticut Western Reserve in the middle third of the 19th century. The website provides an introduction to the Underground Railroad exhibit, plus visitor and historical information.

Been There! Batavia - Clermont County Underground Railroad Freedom Trail

This trail of thirty-three Underground Railroad and Abolitionist sites (along with maps and history) can be downloaded as a full-color brochure. Or call 800-796-4282 to request a copy. The tour included some locations which are simply "former site of" (that is, nothing extant) but such sites still provided interesting and important historical background. I'd recommend this tour because so much of the surrounding area is unchanged, and it's easy to imagine what it was like in the 1840s. The nearby Chilo Lock #34 Park is definitely worth a stop if you're in the area. Though the museum itself is not specific to black history, the Ohio River played a significant role in the story of slavery and freedom and there's much to learn about it here. Besides, there is a nice play area for little travelers who might need a stretch!

Cincinnati - Harriet Beecher Stowe House

The house was the home to Harriet Beecher Stowe prior to her marriage. Operated as an historical and cultural site, it focues on Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The site also includes a look into the family, friends, and colleagues of the Beecher-Stowe family, Lane Seminary, and the abolitionist, womens rights and Underground Railroad movements in which these historical figures participated in the 1830's to 1860's, as well as African-American history related to these movements. Visitor and historical information is found at the website.

Been There! And I have mixed feelings. I visited in the spring of 2010 and was disappointed to discover that though there had once been a "permanent" exhibit on African American history in Cincinnati, it had been dismantled and the room that held it was now empty. As with so many historical sites, this one is funded and managed by volunteers and in addition to being in rather sad state of repair, also seems to be in a philosophical transition. I was told that future interpretation will put more emphasis on the life and times of the Beecher-Stowe family, and less on African Americans. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that it can't compete with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (below.) But if you just want to see the home of the (as Lincoln supposedly said) "The Little Lady Who Started This Great War” it's worth a stop. Just don't expect more than that.

Been There! Cincinnati - National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Opened in 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River, The Freedom Center uses the Underground Railroad as a lens through which to explore a range of freedom issues, past, present and future. At this rich website you can learn more about its core exhibits housed in three pavillions, it's extensive programming and outreach. You'll find visitor information for both Ohio and Kentucky to enhance your trip.

This is an immense, comprehensive place!! If you simply walk through and read the exhibits, expect to spend about 2 hours. But to really interact with everything the Freedom Center has to offer, I'd suggest you allow (at the very least) half a day, an entire day or more if you want to include the various films and multimedia presentations, or special events and concerts. There is a lovely cafe right on site which has family friendly food. If you're short on time, or travelling with children, it's best to ask a guide for suggestions about how best to focus your time. I'd also highly recommend you check the schedule for films and such online.

Parking is a major concern. There is a lot beneath the building, and parking is also available on the street and in downtown Cincinnati, but you will find it impossible to park in Cincinnati, Covington or Newport if either the Reds (schedule) or the Bengals (schedule) have a home game. Trust me...I learned this the hard way! So before you plan a visit, check those schedules so you don't end up wasting a trip.

Been There! Cincinnati - Taft Museum of Art

Artist Robert S. Duncanson (1821-1872) arrived in Cincinnati in the 1840's, establishing himself as one of the first African American artists to gain international recognition. Duncanson's career was manifested through a large commission by Cincinnati art patron Nicholas Longworth, a suite of landscape mural paintings to adorn the walls of Longworth's grand Pike Street home, Belmont, now the Taft Museum of Art. The Museum annually recognizes the achievements of contemporary African American artists through the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence Program . For two weeks the artist joins the staff to give public performances, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. The Robert S. Duncanson Society supports the residency by promoting and developing a series schedule dedicated to continuing and broadening the exposure of African American artists. The murals, though once covered with wallpaper, were recently restored and are worth a stop if you're in the Cincinnati area. Also, check the website for special exhibits - I visited specifically to see Black Is a Color: African American Art from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Columbus - King Arts Complex

A cultural center devoted to promoting African-American heritage through performing, cultural and educational programs. Also, feel what the long journey to the New World was like for slaves in the interactive permanent exhibit "Cargo: The Middle Passage," which looks, sounds and feels like a slave ship. You'll find visitor information, events, news and more at the website.

Cleveland - African American Museum

Currently the African American Museum in Cleveland is closed due to lack funding and the building' structural issues. The Board of Directors of the Museum are currently working on resolving these issues. Your support is needed and sought to reopen the Museum, and you'll find more information about this at the website.

Cleveland - Karamu House

"Karamu House is the nation's oldest African-American cultural arts institution and has been an important part of the Cleveland community for over three quarters of a century. From a unique vantage-point within the African-American community, Karamu has fostered true interracial understanding and cooperation, an awareness of cultural diversity, and an appreciation for the rich African-American cultural heritage." Learn about classes, performances and more at the website.

Dayton - Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park

This park encompasses the Paul Lawrence Dunbar House. The website provides historical background, special events and visitor information.

Flushing - The Underground Railroad Museum (By Appointment Only)

The museum features an extensive colleciton of publications, books, memorabilia and other articles. Exhibits portray what is known about slavery and the Underground Railroad in Ohio.

Gallipolis - John Gee Black Historical Center

John Gee was a skilled carpenter who donated land for the African Methodist Episcopal Chapel in 1818. The building is now a historical center.

Ironton - Lawrence County Museum

The Lawrence County Museum has developed a self-guided tour, “Tracks to Freedom,” highlighting the active Underground Railroad history of this southern-most tip of Ohio. The museum also features artifacts from the Rev. John Rankin, who lived in the area in his latter years. You'll find a wealth of digitized materials online using their African American History index.

Marietta - Underground Railroad

You can visit or view seven Underground Railroad sites in the Marietta and the Washington County Ohio Area. This site has more information about each in addition to visitor's information of a general nature such as lodging, dining, shopping and attractions. Plus there is a history of the Underground RR in the area written by Henry Robert Burke, an esteemed historian of the area.

Oberlin - Oberlin Heritage Center

Oberlin College was a hotbed of the abolitionist and reform movements, and the first school of higher education in the nation to publicly adopt a policy regarding the admission of blacks. The Heritage Center provides tours on a variety of historical topics, including local African American history. One of the monuments you can visit is dedicated to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, when citizens defied federal law and Kentucky slavecatchers to rescue a fugitive slave.

Ripley - John P Parker Home
Been There! - See pictures from my tour

Born enslaved Parker purchased his freedom at eighteen and settled in Ripley, Ohio where he became an inventor, entrepreneur and conductor on the Underground Railroad. His home was recently restored, and is open for tours, either by appointment or at seasonal hours, but check the website and call first.

You should also read his autobiography before visiting. I read this book in two sittings because I couldn't put it down. Parker had told his life story to a journalist in the early 1880's, but the manuscript was gathering dust in the Duke University Archives until the 1990's. Parker John P. , Stuart Seely Sprague (Editor) His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker. NY: Norton, 1996. Order at

Ripley - John Rankin House
Been There! - See pictures my tour

John Rankin was a Presbyterian minister and educator who devoted much of his life to the antislavery movement. The Rankin house, sitting at the highest point overlooking the Ohio River, was an important stop on the Underground Railroad.

The stairway (100 steps) used by slaves has been reconstructed. If you want to climb up, ask for directions in town...the signage isn't very good. You can read more about abolition and the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ohio in Ann Hagedorn's Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Order at

Sandusky - The Underground Railroad in Sandusky Sandusky/Erie County Visitors & Convention Bureau

Because of its location on Lake Erie, Sandusky was a major terminal on the Underground Railroad. This website will help you explore the sites, or you can request a brochure through the CVB. You'll also find visitor and travel information on lodging, dining and shopping. (They change this link frequently so if it doesn't work for you, go to their main page and look for "attractions" or "things to do" then "educational.)

Wilberforce (near Dayton)- National Afro-American Museum

The Center collects, preserves and interprets material evidence of the Black experience. The museum's permanent exhibition, From Victory To Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties, explores African American experiences in America's history from 1945 with the ending of World War II, to 1965 with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Located in the center of the exhibition is a small theater, which shows the award-winning Music As a Metaphor, a 27-minute video tracing the origins of African American music from its roots in Africa to period music of the fifties. Visitor information, calendr of events and exhibits and more will be found at the website.

Zanesville - Putnam Underground Railroad Education Center

The house at 522 Woodlawn Avenue in the Putnam Historic District was in the middle of abolitionist activity in the late 1830's. The Center offers free educational programs.

Zanesville-Muskingum County - Zanesville-Muskingum County Convention & Visitors Bureau

In addition to information about dining, lodging, history, shopping and attractions, the Bureau offers a Friends of Freedom tour you can download as a Word document.


Black History in Wisconsin - State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Before World War I and before the Civil War, before the Germans and the Yankees and even the lead miners had arrived in our state, African Americans were living and working in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Historical Society possesses one of the nation's largest research collections on African American history, including black newspapers and periodicals such as the Freedman's Journal which is available online. In addition to an extensive historical narrative, this page leads to online exhibits (such as The Underground Railroad in Wisconsin) plus original documents, pictures, eyewitness accounts, and other primary sources you can examine online that reveal Wisconsin's black heritage.

Eagle - Pleasant Prairie African American Pioneer Village at Old World Wisconsin (see also Lancaster)

The settlement of Pleasant Ridge in southwestern Wisconsin's Grant County began attracting African-American settlers in 1850. During and following the Civil War, more families - many of them freed or escaped slaves - made their way to the Pleasant Ridge settlement, where they established farms and integrated themselves into a community that also included German, English and Irish farmers. Pleasant Ridge grew to include more than 50 African Americans who, along with their European-American neighbors, built a school in 1873, the United Brethren Church in 1884, and a community hall in 1898. Ultimately, the community went into decline as younger members left in search of greater social and economic opportunities in larger cities.

In 1998 Old World Wisconsin (the nation's largest outdoor living history museum) re-created a portion of the original Pleasant Ridge community, including the church, a cemetery chapel and an authentic replica of the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, complete with reproduced gravestones that reflect the actual design and placement of those in the original cemetery. Pleasant Ridge preserves a little-known chapter in African-American settlement of Wisconsin.

Elsewhere on the web, you might read that Pleasant Ridge was commonly and derisively known as "N*gger Ridge." Extensive research conducted by Shawn Godwin for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin disputes this. Godwin cites one "relatively isolated occurance" of the term being used - in an early 20th Century newspaper editorial, which drew critical mail from residents decrying the use of the term as both unacceptable and uncommon. To quote:

"When referring specifically to the African-American portion of the community a phrase like: "the colored neighborhood west of Lancaster" is commonly used, particularly in the earliest periods of the community's existence, before it was thought of as a full blown rural place. And on one occasion "n*gger ridge" was used in the early twentieth century (it should be noted that this does seem to have been a relatively isolated occurrence and that the great majority of references to the community are not racially tinged, but rather just like references to any other small rural place in Grant County)."

Source: Pleasant Ridge : a rural African-American community in Grant County, Wisconsin. By Shawn Godwin. State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2000.


Been There! Green Bay - National Railroad Museum - The Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights

From the 1870s through the 1960s the Pullman porter was synonymous with outstanding service aboard America’s sleeping cars. However, beyond the public view porters were confronted with a dual life of admiration and discrimination. The Museum’s new exhibit will tell the life story of the porter from their work for the Pullman Company to their efforts to unionize, which formed the roots of America’s civil rights movement.

Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights provides visitors the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a little known but powerful chapter of American history,” stated Michael Telzrow, Museum executive director. “The Porter’s struggle for labor rights paved the way for later generations of successful African-Americans, and helped shape the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It’s a story of humility, sacrifice and ultimate triumph that cuts across racial and generational lines.”

View the video developed for this exhibit.

As a Green Bay resident I was delighted when this exhibit opened in 2008. I think it is outstanding and well worth the admission to the museum even if you're not interested in the other train exhibits.

Walking through the Pullman car, with the computer generated porter as your guide, you'll travel back in time and forget you're in the 21st Century.
Highly recommended!

Photos courtesy: National Railroad Museum - used with permission

You can see the restored Lake Mitchell behind one of the many kiosks which interpret the important role of the Pullman Porters in the Civil Rights and Labor movements.

Just a few of the items which were donated by relatives of Pullman Porters to support this exhibit.

Been There! Lancaster - Cunningham Museum 120 East Maple Street, 53813 (See also Eagle)

This small museum houses photographs, diaries, newspaper articles and artifacts from the African American settlement at Pleasant Ridge, which was located nearby. The museum is located one block east of the Historic Courthouse Square. For appointments, information and hours of operation, please call 608-723-2287 or 608-723-4925. Group tours available by request. Maintained by Grant County Historical Society. When I visited, the volunteer guide was very well informed about the Pleasant Ridge settlement, and gave me directions to find the site.

Milton - Milton House Museum

The Milton House, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed by Underground Railroad conductor and Wisconsin pioneer Joseph Goodrich. Evidence of the Goodrich family's involvement in the Underground Railroad is substantiated by oral testimony, letters, and published biographical material. According to oral tradition, fugitive slaves would enter the log cabin located approximately 40 feet south of the Milton House Hotel, in order to avoid guests. They would then enter a trap door and walk through a tunnel that lead to the basement of the inn where Goodrich and his family provided shelter and food. The tunnel, originally an earthen structure about three to five feet high, is believed to have been constructed around 1845 when the house was completed. In 1954, the property was remodeled to accommodate visitors and the tunnel was enlarged and lined with stone. The website provides a wealth of information including history, visitor and tour information, construction photos and more.

Milwaukee - America's Black Holocaust Museum

Founded in 1988 by Dr. James Cameron (1914-2006) who survived an attempted lynching in 1930. The mission is to educate the public of injustices suffered by people of African American heritage, while providing visitors with an opportunity to rethink their assumptions about race and racism.

The "brick and mortar" museum was closed following Dr. Cameron's death, but the mission lives on in a virtual museum online. From the website:

"On February 25, 2012, ABHM came back to life as a unique, cutting-edge, interactive, virtual museum. This 21st century, cost-effective format makes ABHM available to people around the world who would otherwise have no access to its information and resources. ABHM also installs temporary exhibits in public and university buildings in the greater Milwaukee area.

Scholar-griots from around the world have begun curating exhibits for ABHM. The virtual museum is still in its infancy, but exhibits are added every week.

Future plans include: a gift shop and fine art gallery; lesson plans and other resources for educators; a sophisticated multi-player role-playing game; and a simulated environment."

Sheboygan - John Michael Kohler Arts Center Dr. Charles Smith Collection

 In 1985, Smith began a sprawling outdoor memorial/museum in his Aurora, Illinois yard. Though originally dedicated to black soldiers (and highlighting their mistreatment before and after the Viet Nam War) the collection eventually grew to encompass many aspects of black life in America, from slavery to the present. The sculptures were created using found objects, mostly from his neighborhood.

Time and the elements were taking a toll, so the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan WI now cares for over 200 sculptures from the original site. The artist is working on a new site in Louisiana.

Additional Resources

Outside In: African American History in Iowa, 1838-2000. Edited by Bill Silag. State Historical Society of Iowa, 2001. Order at

Three themes connect the 21 chapters: the struggle of black and white Iowans to establish equal rights; the pursuit of individual opportunity in Iowa's economy; and the creation of coherent communities and inclusive culture. Generously illustrated with photographs and well documented with footnotes and extensive bibliography and index.

African Americans in Michigan. Lewis Walker and Banjamin C. Wilson. Michigan State University Press, 2001. Order at

From the publisher: "African Americans, as free laborers and as slaves, were among the earliest permanent residents of Michigan, settling among the French, British, and Native people with whom they worked and farmed. Lewis Walker and Benjamin Wilson recount the long history of African American communities in Michigan, delineating their change over time, as migrants from the South, East, and overseas made their homes in the state. Moreover, the authors show how Michigan's development is inextricably joined with the vitality and strength of its African American residents."

Front Line of Freedom: African Americans and the Forging of the Underground Railroad in the Ohio Valley. Griffler, Keith P. University of Kentucky Press, 2004. Order at

In addition to introducing black freedom fighters like John Parker (a former slave who built a prosperous business in Ripley, Ohio and worked from that base) Griffler crosschecks letters, reminiscences and oral histories against contemporary scholarship to explore the inner workings and attitudes of various participants and societies, providing a fascinating new perspective on things we thought we knew. In less skilled hands, this book could have been an unwieldy tome, but Griffler packs a wallop in a slim volume. His writing is concise, his narrative smooth, and God bless him, he never belabors a point. I easily rank this as my #1 book of the year, for general readers and academics alike.

Black Settlers in Rural Wisconsin. Zachary Cooper. State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Madison, 1994.

Black Heritage Sites: The North. Nancy C. Curtis. New Press 1998 Order at

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

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

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

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

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

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