5 Cities Celebrating Black History Month With Poignant Exhibits, New Monuments, and More
Cities around the U.S. are gearing up to celebrate Black History Month with new and revitalized museums, galleries, and special events popping up all over the country. Though the vast and varied history of Black Americans can and should be recognized all year — from the struggles, triumphs, and contributions to the progress that has yet to be made — travelers looking to make the most of Black History Month can head to these cities to learn from and celebrate with the Black community.
New York City
The Big Apple is teeming with Black History, but with the Go City Explorer Pass, you'll have access to at least six exhibits and experiences focused on Black history. Highlights include the "Critical Fabulations" gallery at the Museum of Modern Art, featuring artwork that uses artifacts, archives, and testimonies to explore both the legacy of colonialism and its impact today. In February, the New York Historical Society Museum will debut two new exhibits: "Black Dolls" and "Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass' America." Meanwhile, visitors can also take the NYC Slavery & Underground Railroad Tour, which offers an in-depth look at New York City during the age of slavery.
From its history as a stronghold of slavery to recent movements to remove Confederate statues from public spaces, Black history and cultural influence is deeply entrenched in Richmond. Travelers can learn more with a self-guided tour on the Richmond Slave Trail or a visit to The American Civil War Museum, a first-of-its-kind museum that tells the story of this time period through Union, Confederate and African American perspectives. The Valentine Museum is also a must, with walking tours of Jackson Ward, which was the first historically registered Black urban neighborhood in the U.S. and often referred to as the "Black Wall Street of the South."
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is home to the nation's largest MLK Day parade in January, setting the scene not only for Black History Month, but also for yearlong celebrations of the city's diversity. Travelers can start with a stop by Martin Luther King Park to see a recently added statue titled "Spheres of Reflection," which showcases the words and phrases most used by Dr. King. The Witte Museum, Texas' oldest museum, is also worth a visit, especially with the new "Black Cowboys: An American Story" exhibit, which opened in November 2021 and uncovers the little-known history of Black people in the Wild West.
As the birthplace of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and the site of several other important moments in history, Oakland has always had a strong connection to the Black community. Travelers interested in learning more about the history of the Black Panther Party can take a self-guided tour through 12 sites that were significant in the organization's history. At the Oakland Museum of California, the "Black Power" exhibit highlights the work of Black anti-racist activists in California, while the "Remember Them: Champions for Humanity" monument is dedicated to 25 leaders who have made contributions toward global peace, freedom, and human rights. Figures featured in the monument, which can be seen in Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park, include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, and more.
From the music and food to its role in the Civil Rights Movement, the Black community has played a pivotal role in shaping the identity of Memphis. To explore this side of the popular Tennessee city, travelers should start with a visit to The National Civil Rights Museum, which tells the story of this movement from past to present. This museum also includes the Lorraine Motel, where visitors can go up to the second floor and see exactly where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Finally, the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum is a poignant stop on your tour of Memphis, located inside an antebellum home, and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is not to be missed.
Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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