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Honoring Black History in the Central United States

Black history is American history and you can visit these historical locations all year long

Illinois

The first Black community in Chicago, Illinois was established in the 1840s. By the end of that century, the first Black individual was elected to public office in the Second City. Experience Black history throughout Chicago this year. Here are a few places to start.

DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is the nation's first museum dedicated to the preservation and collection of African American culture and history. An affiliate of the Smithsonian, the museum is celebrating its 60th anniversary and the current exhibit, "The March," allows visitors to immerse themselves in history with a step back in time to witness Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. 

DuSable Museum of African American History Chicago | WhereTraveler
DuSable Museum of African American History (Courtesy Choose Chicago/Chicago Park District Photo)

Pullman District

George Pullman, the famous train car magnate, set out to design a utopian community for his workers. The Pullman District was designed to attract skilled workers and provide them with a high standard of living. The A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum chronicles the contributions of the African American porters who attended to the sleeping cars as they traveled throughout the United States. Perhaps the largest contribution these porters made to society was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African American labor union to win a collective bargaining agreement. It was a victory for both labor unions and civil rights. The Pullman District was designated a National Monument in 2015 by President Obama.

A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum Chicago | WhereTraveler
(Courtesy A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum)

Michigan

Detroit, Michigan was a symbol of hope to enslaved people throughout the south. It was the last stop on the Underground Railroad before reaching the freedom of Canada just across the river.

Hermitage Slave Quarters at Greenfield Village

Henry McAlpine's Savannah plantation had 52 brick buildings where his 200 slaves lived. Today, two of the brick structures have been recreated in Greenfield Village in Detroit, Michigan. Visitors can wander through the Hermitage Slave Quarters today to get a sense of what life was like for the enslaved workers in the 1820s (the approximate date the structures would have been built). Mostly, the workers cultivated rice or made bricks, rice barrels, and cast iron products. The Emancipation Proclamation declared slavery illegal on January 1, 1863, but freedom did not come to the Hermitage Slave Quarters until December 21, 1864, when Savannah finally surrendered to Sherman's army. 

Greenfield Village Detroit | WhereTraveler
(Courtesy Greenfield Village)

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History holds the largest permanent exhibition of African American culture in the world. The museum is open to the public or the galleries can be viewed from home using the Wright's mobile app. On the app, users can choose between a rich image gallery, an audio-only overview, or short annotated descriptions of select artifacts. The "And Still We Rise" exhibit showcases African American resilience in the face of hardship from the Middle Passage to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. Until May 2021, visitors can experience the interactive, multimedia exhibit "Voting Matters." It follows the work of African Americans on the development of principles and values that helped define what "the right to vote" means in democratic societies around the globe. 

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Detroit | WhereTraveler
(Courtesy Visit Detroit/Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History)

Arkansas

Little Rock Central High School

Following Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock Central High School became the epicenter of social unrest and a glimmer of change on the horizon. In 1957, nine Black students began attending what was previously an all-white school. The students underwent incredible hardship just to get an education. They were brought to school in armored military vehicles, suffered threats on their lives, and were taunted by angry mobs. Today, guided tours of the high school are available through the National Parks Service. 

Little Rock Central High School Arkansas | WhereTraveler
Little Rock Central High School (Courtesy Alabama Tourism Department/©Art Meripol)

Missouri

Black history is not a thing of the past in Missouri. The protests in Ferguson were only 7 years ago. Here are a few places to celebrate the triumphs of Black Americans in Missouri.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the Black contribution to America's pastime as well as baseball's role in social change throughout the country. The museum, established in 1990, is only two blocks from the Paseo YMCA where Andrew "Rube" Foster established the Negro League 70 years prior. The Negro League teams were a source of economic advancement for many Black communities across the nation. If you can't get to Kansas City to see the museum in person, the NLBM has traveling exhibits that can be rented by local museums anywhere in the U.S. 

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Kansas City | WhereTraveler
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (Courtesy Visit KC/©Derek Slagle)

American Jazz Museum

What could be more American than apple pie and baseball? Jazz. The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO is the place to celebrate the legendary Black musicians of a truly American music genre. Enjoy the walk through the history of jazz music and the famous figures who brought the genre to prominence. 

American Jazz Museum Kansas City | WhereTraveler
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (Courtesy Visit KC/©Jenny Wheat)