Every February we celebrate Black History Month. It’s a time to remember events directly linked to the African diaspora while honoring the achievements that black Americans have made in all walks of life.
The observation started in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) decided to designate the second week of February, tied to the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, as “Negro History Week.” Since 1976, the nationwide remembrance has been extended to the entire month.
Here are some of the most important places around the country where you can remember the multi-faceted history of black America—in February and all year round.
The nation’s capital has begun beefing up its representation of black history. Visit the newly-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, which aims to educate and preserve African American culture through its contributions to literature, music, religion and much more. Pay homage to the civil rights movement at the Martin Luther King memorial and then step back in time to fundamental movements in black American history at the Frederick Douglass House and the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial.
New York’s black community has always been at the forefront of great cultural pushes. Pay respects at the Louis Armstrong House and Museum in Queens. Up in Harlem, visit the Langston Hughes House and the Dunbar Apartments, which was once home to many prominent black leaders, including W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Further north, the state of New York played a key role in the underground railroad. Visit an homage to the movement at the Underground Railroad Heritage Trail in Rochester and the Harriet Tubman House in Auburn.
It’s impossible to talk about black contributions to music without mentioning motown. Visit Detroit’s musical Motown Historical Museum AKA “Hitsville, USA.” Afterwards, head to the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation to view the very bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and inadvertently became a catalyst to the Civil Rights Movement.
Chicago’s Pullman Historic District was the first planned industrial community in the U.S. and one of the largest communities of unionized black workers. In 2015, the neighborhood was declared a national historic monument for its involvement in the civil rights movement. The city’s DuSable Museum of African American History includes exhibits on Chicago’s rich black history, including the Pullman strike and much more.
Atlanta is forever tied in history to Martin Luther King, Jr. Monuments and museum to the man exist all over town, but for the most extensive experience, head to the King Center. The entire complex includes MLK’s gravesite, his childhood home and a Civil Rights Center.
Allensworth is the only town in California to be founded (in 1908), financed and governed completely by African Americans. Today it’s a historical state park.
Up in San Francisco, visit the Museum of the African Diaspora then head to The Fillmore, where many famous black entertainers and musicians (including B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin) played memorable gigs.
Journey through Florida’s early involvement with black history at Fort Mose Historic State Park (the first free community of ex-slaves, established in 1738) and the Kingsley Plantation, the oldest plantation house in the state, which has since become an ecological preserve.
The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument pays homage to Charles Young (the first black man to achieve colonel status) and the all-black regiments that served in the U.S. Military. In Cincinnati, visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which honors abolitionists, both past and present.
Boston has two significant sites that are especially powerful during Black History Month—the Museum of African American History and the African American Historical Site. Further south, see the house where Harriet Beecher Stowe lived while writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Connecticut. Then head down to Philadelphia to pay homage to a jazz legend at the John Coltrane House.
Start at the Black History Museum and the African-American Heritage Park in Alexandria, Virginia. Spread out to the Reginald Lewis Museum of African American History in Baltimore and learn more about the Civil Rights Movement at the International Civil Rights Center in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The cradle of the civil rights movement is rife with 20th century landmarks. Visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee for an all-encompassing look at the movement. Then head to Little Rock, Arkansas and the Little Rock Central High School, where nine black students were given army protection to enter during integration. The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City and the Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville are both integral to honoring the cultural contributions black Americans made to society within the past century.