February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The beginning of Black History Month dates back to 1926 and it was initially created as a way to recognize black achievement.
According to the Baltimore Sun, when people first began to recognize Black History Month, it wasn’t feasible for African Americans to travel safely and comfortably as it is today. Then, in 1936, an African-American man from Harlem published a book called The Negro Motorist Green Book, which served as the first official black travel guide for hotels, restaurants, and gas stations that were welcoming to African Americans. The guide was used until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
— Hostelling Intl USA (@HIUSA) February 1, 2016
In February of each year, many museums and African-American history sites hold special exhibits and programs in recognition of Black History Month. As debates continue to rage on about the relevancy of Black History month and many people in the black community continue to find themselves divided over recent comments by Stacy Dash and other notable celebrities, let’s take a look at some of the top Black History Month travel destinations in the United States.
- Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is infamous as the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and the Lorraine Motel is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, where King was killed. Memphis was also home to the part of the underground railroad, and the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum gives visitors a chance to visit a number of sites that were important to the underground railroad.
- New Orleans, Louisiana. The Zulu Lundi Gras Festival, which takes place on February 8, is a celebration of African-Amerian and Native-American culture, and it features live music and performing arts. New Orleans is also home to seven historic sites on the Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail.
- Montgomery, Alabama. During the civil rights movement, Montgomery frequently made headlines for activists such as Rosa Parks. The city is home to the Rosa Parks Museum and the Freedom Rides Museum, which is the historic Greyhound bus station where the “Freedom Riders” refused to give up their seats on the bus.
- Harlem, New York. Harlem was well known in the 1920s and 1930s as a cultural hub for black musicians, artists, and writers. According to Yahoo Travel, the Studio Museum is a great place to check out art created by black artists, and Minton’s Playhouse on 118th Street was once home to famous black jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.
- Detroit, Michigan. Who could forget Motown Records? In Detroit, you can visit Hitsville USA, which is Motown’s first headquarters, and the same place stars like Diana Ross, the Jackson Five, and Marvin Gaye got their starts. The headquarters has famous items on display such as Michael Jackson’s studded white glove. Detroit also played a major role in the underground railroad, and there are a few walking tours that make stops at historic underground railroad sites.
If taking a black history trip is something you want to do this February, consider these five locations or consider the wide array of other options that offer special events during Black History Month.
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