Explore Kansas City

Places To Honor Black History in the U.S. (The South)

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

Alabama

The Civil Rights Movement awakened the entire nation to the realities of the injustices suffered by Black Americans. The legacy of the movement has deep roots in Alabama. Here are a few must-visit locations.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a great place to being (or continue) your journey to understanding the Civil Rights Movement, particularly Alabama's part in it. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, the BCRI is committed to preserving Birmingham's story while also encouraging continued cultural understanding. The Institute is open Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but a virtual experience is also available. The current featured exhibit focuses on A.G. Gaston and his legacy. From humble log cabin beginnings, Gaston flourished into a successful entrepreneur and major influence in the fight for integration in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is dedicated to preserving Birmingham's significant history in the Civil Rights Movement | WhereTraveler
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Courtesy The Birmingham Times)

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.

The Little Rock Nine needed to be escorted into the school by the 101st Airborne | WhereTraveler
The Little Rock Nine being escorted into school by the 101st Airborne (Courtesty NPS)

Kelly Ingram Park

Right across from the 16th Street Baptist Church (another location worth visiting), there's a beautiful open space filled with art. Kelly Ingram Park is full of gorgeous sculptures depicting those involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Visit commemorative statues of Dr. Martin Luther King and Reverand Fred Shuttlesworth and three art installations by James Drake. The Civil Rights Institute offers audio-guided tours of the park with extra history and explanations of the symbolism throughout the park.

The sculptures throughout the park depict the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement | WhereTraveler
Beautiful and moving sculptures in Kelly Ingram Park (Courtesy Civil Rights Trail)

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 League Baseball Museum

The Negro League 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. 

The Negro League Baseball Museum is a great attraction in Kansas City, MO | WhereTraveler
The Negro League Baseball Museum exterior (©SakuraAvalon86/Wikimedia Commons)

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. The physical museum is currently open at a reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, but there are a wealth of virtual events available too. The virtual events in February and the beginning of March are completely free and feature artists like Bryan Alford. Check out the tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on March fifth.

The American Jazz Museum has in-person and virtual exhibits for all ages | WhereTraveler
Visit the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO (Courtesy AMJ)

Greensboro

Greensboro is another city inextricably tied to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. There are a number of sites to visit but here are some highlights.

F.W. Woolworth Building

In 1960, four Black college freshmen took empty seats at a whites-only lunch counter in the F.W. Woolworth Building. Ignored by the staff and taunted by the other patrons, the four men returned the next day with 19 supporters. Then the next day with 85. By the end of the week, they had nearly 400 supporters. The sit-in was emulated by others across the state. By summer, 33 North Carolina cities, including Greensboro, integrated their restaurants. Today, the lunch counter is open to the public and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A uniquie sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter inspired generations of activists | WhereTraveler
The Woolworth lunch counter (Courtesy Upstateherd)

International Civil Rights Center

Next door to the famous lunch counter, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum educates visitors about the fight for civil and human rights both in Greensboro and around the world. The museum as several exhibits dedicated to the individuals that spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement. View virtually from home or book an in-person tour on the website.

Visit both the Woolworth building and the International Civil Rights Center in just one trip | WhereTraveler
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum next to the site of the famous lunch counter sit-in (©Dan Routh)