15 Must-Visit Sites and Exhibitions for Black History Month

Learn about African American life and history at these important institutions, from museums to historical sites to powerful monuments.

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National Museum of African-American History and Culture

The newest addition to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, opened its doors in 2016 and is devoted to the "documentation of African American life, history, and culture." The museum features more than 36,000 artifacts with collections on African American music, literature, photography and more. Don’t miss the special exhibit Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture. The exhibit, which runs through June 2019, explores the impact of Oprah Winfrey in the media and popular culture.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

Opened in the cradle of the civil rights movement, Atlanta, Georgia in 2014, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is offering free admission through February 28 in celebration of Black History Month, courtesy of the Coca-Cola Foundation. The center focuses on both permanent and temporary exhibitions which tell the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. The permanent collection tackles the history of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, global human rights and the personal artifacts and papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights Heroes

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights offers a comprehensive survey of the intersection of global and American civil and human rights movements in the past and present and this March welcomes a new director, Jill Savitt, a genocide prevention expert. To honor Black History Month, Lyft is offering free rides in a host of cities to institutions that promote black history and causes including, in Atlanta, the Atlanta History Center, Atlanta University Center Historic District, APEX Museum, the Center for Civil and Human Rights and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.

Museum of the African Diaspora

San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora, or MoAD, is a contemporary art museum dedicated to black culture. In addition to fine art, the Smithsonian affiliate museum features a poet-in-residence program. Don’t miss the special exhibit Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem through April 14. The collection features nearly a century of art from artists of African descent.

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery houses many portraits of iconic African-Americans, from a painting of Lena Horne to an antique photograph of Frederick Douglass. One of the most recent additions and must-sees is the official portrait for President Obama in the America's Presidents gallery and the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama in the 20th Century Americans gallery, done by two African-American contemporary artists Kehinde Wiley (President Obama) and Amy Sherald (Michelle Obama).

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Detroit’s black heritage runs deep, from the Underground Railroad to Motown Records. There are so many cultural and historic sites to see, but if you only have limited time in the city, head to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The museum has more than 35,000 artifacts including permanent collections about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

See More Black History Sites: Midwest Sites to Explore Black History and Learn About the Great Migration

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail

Established in 2018, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail preserves the history of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s across 14 states, from Delaware to Kansas. The trail connects more than 100 landmarks and historical sites, from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Museum of Pop Culture

Considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix’s musical influences are everywhere even to this day. Fans can learn more about the musician in his hometown of Seattle, Washington at the Museum of Pop Culture. The Wild Blue Angel: Hendrix Abroad, 1966-1970 evergreen exhibit lets guests travel alongside Hendrix during the height of his career and final years of his life. See his passport, read his journal and hear rare interview clips.

Read About More Black Cultural Icons: Black History Month

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

America’s pastime has deep African American roots. In the early 1900s, black Americans weren’t allowed to play on Major League Baseball teams, but that didn’t stop athletes from playing and forming their own teams. Today, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri preserves the history of black baseball players from the late 1800s to the 1960s.

Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Extending from Wilmington, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is home to the Gullah and the Geechee people, descendants of slaves from West and Central Africa. To learn more about the heritage and history of the area, visit the Geechee Kunda Museum in Riceboro, Georgia or book one of the ranger-led tours at Cumberland Island National Seashore to explore historic sites along the coast.

Harriet Tubman Historical Park

Designated as a National Historical Park in 2017, Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York preserves several important sites associated with the Underground Railroad conductor. Visitors can visit Tubman’s gravesite, tour the grounds of her former home and visit the church she attended for more than 20 years.

African Burial Ground National Monument

Located in Lower Manhattan, the African Burial Ground National Monument memorializes a site used as a burial ground for African slaves in the 1600s and 1700s. The grounds include ancestral African Diaspora symbols and native shadblow trees.

National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is housed in part in the Lorraine Motel, the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. The museum features the room where King spent his final hours after the assassination but also details the history of slavery and civil rights in the United States.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, is an interpretive museum and research center in Alabama featuring permanent and traveling exhibits that chronicle the history of the American civil rights movement.

The King Center

The 23-acre National Historical Site the King Center includes the largest repository of Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers, the historic home and birthplace of MLK as well as significant historical sites like the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Here visitors are shown paying their respects to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King at the crypt at the King Center in Atlanta.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

In addition to the many stops in Montgomery on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, two new additions downtown offer an immersive, sobering contextualization of racial terror in America. Located just a short walk from each other, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum explore the country’s history with racial injustice. Opened in 2018, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the first national memorial to reflect on racial terror, from enslaved black people to segregation to the modern presumptions of guilt and gun violence facing African Americans. The powerful memorial features an installation of more than 800 steel pieces which represent a county in the U.S. where racial lynching took place. In a first-of-its-kind exhibit, The Legacy Museum explores the impact of slavery, segregation and racial terror and houses the nation’s most comprehensive collection of data on lynching in America.

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