February is Black History Month in the U.S. I’ve been selecting movies to watch and re-watch like 12 Years a Slave and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and it’s gotten me thinking about some of the best sites to visit to commemorate black history in our country (The King Center is right down the street from me, I need to get off the sofa and revisit it this month). From historic sites to museums, from libraries to monuments, here are just a handful of significant places to reflect on our country’s complicated history of race relations. In light of recent events, I can’t think of a more important time in recent history to do so.
International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro, South Carolina. Visit one of the most significant sites from the Civil Rights Movement, the historic 1929 F.W. Woolworth building in Greensboro, South Carolina, where a lunch counter sit-in began with the Greensboro Four (Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond) on Feb. 1, 1960. These are the original stools they sat in, still in place. This is part of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.
The King Center, Atlanta, Georgia. The King Center is a 23-acre site in the heart of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Admission is free and includes the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, the Eternal Flame, the Freedom Walkway and Reflecting Pool as well as many exhibits. The King Center also incorporates The King Library and Archives, which contains the bulk of Civil Rights primary source materials. Dr. King’s Birth Home (seen above) and Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church are both within short walking distance of The King Center.
The Harlem Renaissance Walking Tour, New York, New York. The tour focuses on sites related to the art, music, literature, religion and political events of the Harlem Renaissance, which took place from 1915-1935, as well as to current culture and issues in the neighborhood today. More information available at harlemheritage.com. The tours begin at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Photo by Flickr member SneakinDeacon
The Arthur Ashe Monument, Richmond, Virginia. I love that on this boulevard of monuments to Confederate soldiers, the most recent monument addition honors Arthur Ashe. Not only the first black man to win Wimbledon, Ashe went on to become an anti-apartheid and AIDS activist. The addition of this statue is a reflection of our country’s complicated history and a strong symbol of healing.
Mulberry Row, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia. Monticello has worked hard to include all aspects of Jefferson’s time on the plantation, including Mulberry Row, the community where slaves, indentured servants and hired help lived and worked. When I was a student studying the property, there were constant archeological digs and research going on to discover and share more about what slave life was like here and the important contributions enslaved workers made to this historic site. The Mulberry Row resources available online are fascinating as well.
The Langston Hughes Library, Clinton, Tennessee. This one you may have to visit virtually, as it is a private library open for class visits and special events. Designed by Maya Lin, the building is composed of an antique barn cantilevered atop two corn cribs, and is located on a farm once owned by Alex Haley. While it nods to the vernacular rural buildings in the area, its elevated structure and interiors are modern.
Guys, I know this is the tip of the iceberg. Which sties and monuments related to black history have you found moved your the most? Please add to the list in the Comments section.