Essential Black History Museums Across the USA

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All across America, museums are highlighting the stories, leaders and contributions of Black Americans throughout history. In honor of Black History Month, check out these ten must-visit museums highlighting the Black experience in the United States.

National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, TN)

Journey through time and learn about the origins of the Civil Rights Movement and the incredible impact of Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Civil Rights Museum. Located at the former Lorraine Motel, the site of King’s assassination, this museum features artifacts, exhibits and films that will take you through 400 years of African American history. Step onto the bus where Rosa Parks was arrested or sit at Woolworth’s lunch counter, where students staged sit-ins during the 1960s. You can even see Room 306, where Dr. King spent his last few hours.

The Legacy Museum (Montgomery, AL)

One of three Legacy Sites in Montgomery, Alabama, The Legacy Museum showcases the history of slavery and racism in America. From the turbulent journey of captured enslaved people across the Atlantic Ocean (displayed via a cutting-edge projection tunnel) to segregation and mass incarceration, you’ll learn about the hardships and strength of Black Americans through interactive exhibits, first-person accounts and stunning technological displays.

National Museum of African American Music (Nashville, TN)

At the National Museum of African American Music, you’ll discover how Black culture formed the foundation for modern music in the United States, from the blues to country, jazz, and rock and roll. Home to six galleries highlighting over 50 music genres and styles, you’ll construct your own blues melodies on interactive panels, sing along with a gospel choir, and see artifacts from legends like B.B. King, Sarah Vaugh, and Billie Holiday. Stop by on the weekend for Heartbeat Saturdays for live music in the lobby!

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, OH)

Gain a deeper understanding of slavery and the perseverance of Black Americans and their fight for freedom with a visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Here, you’ll learn about historical figures like John Parker, Rev. John Rankin, and Harriet Tubman and their contributions to the Underground Railroad across eight exhibits featuring short films, interactive activities and artifacts.

National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, DC)

Easily identified by its unique design that blends Greco-Roman and West African art and architecture, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture showcases everything from the victories of the Civil Rights Movement to harrowing stories of slavery. Located within the National Mall in Washington, D.C., you’ll explore influential permanent and rotating exhibitions that delve deep into African American culture, from food to language, art, and historical figures.

The Negro League Baseball Museum (Kansas City, MO)

If you’re a sports enthusiast, the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City is a must-visit. Here, you’ll learn about the brave Black American baseball players who refused to allow racism and segregation to keep them from the game they loved. Learn about the obstacles the players faced. Explore exhibits jam-packed with memorabilia and artifacts, such as old uniforms and baseball caps. There’s even a recreated baseball field with statue replicas of legendary baseball players like Cool Papa Bell and Leon Day.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (Houston, TX)

Discover the stories behind the Black soldiers who served in the Civil War and beyond at The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum at the Houston Light Guard Armory in Midtown. Known as the Buffalo Soldiers, the legacy of these brave African American soldiers lives on through art, rotating and permanent exhibits. Learn about the only female Buffalo soldier, Cathay Williams. Check out the Technology Wall, home to machinery and tools used during the 19th and 20th centuries. See historically accurate uniforms on display, or browse the Military Inspired Art (MIA) exhibition featuring artwork by military veterans and contemporary artists.

Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center (St. Augustine, Florida)

Once the first public high school for Black children, this historical site has been transformed into a museum and cultural center highlighting St. Augustine’s Black history and heritage. Explore exhibits highlighting the arrival of African Americans in Florida, such as Juan Garrido, who arrived with famous explore Ponce de Leon. Learn about the St. Augustine Four – four black teenagers who were famously arrested for ordering a burger at the whites-only counter at Woolworths. Other exhibits highlight the stories of Lincolnville’s early settlers to archaeological findings and jazz instruments.     

Northwest African American Museum (Seattle, WA)

In Seattle’s Central District, the Northwest African American Museum explores the history of Black Americans and the Pacific Northwest. Discover the journey of African Americans to the region through permanent and rotating exhibitions, visual arts, music, crafts and literature. Current exhibits include “Oregon Black Pioneers,” which highlights the stories of Oregon’s earliest Black Settlers and a curation of artwork by African artists in the Pacific Northwest. Participate in the Museum Selfie Scavenger Hunt and tag the museum during your visit! 

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