Explore Washington D.C.

Honoring Black History in the Northern United States

Don't limit Black History to February, visit these historical locations all year long

Pennsylvania

The City of Brotherly Love is steeped in Black history. Philly is home to the nation's first museum dedicated to Black American history and the oldest daily newspaper to serve the African American community. There are so many places to visit to honor Black history but here are a few highlights.

African American Museum

The African American Museum in Philadelphia is fully designed to educate visitors about African American history, culture and life. The museum hosts numerous talks, workshops and exhibits featuring African American artists in a variety of disciplines. Many of the workshops and talks are also hosted online and are free and open to the public (donations are of course, always appreciated). 

African American Museum Philadelphia | WhereTraveler
African American Museum (Courtesy VISIT PHILADELPHIA®)

Belmont Mansion

A shining example of Palladian architecture, the Belmont Mansion in Fairmount Park was built in 1745. Several of the founding fathers passed through its doors early on, but today it's the Underground Railroad Museum. The museum is currently offering public tours Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Weekend tours are available by appointment from noon to 5 p.m. The mansion belonged to Judge Richard Peters. Peters, a strong opponent of slavery, would purchase enslaved people in order to free them and hid runaways in his attic. Today, visitors to the museum can view artifacts from the 19th century and learn about the history of the mansion, including that of Cornelia Wells, a free African American who lived in the home. 

Belmont Museum Philadelphia | WhereTraveler
Belmont Museum (©Dan Mall)

Historic Fair Hill

Fair Hill is home to the 1703 Quaker burial ground. It's one of the first integrated burial grounds in the U.S., where the likes of Lucretia Mott, Robert Purvis, and other abolitionists and women's rights activists are buried. Today, it's also an environmental education center that cares for seven different gardens throughout the Fair Hill neighborhood. The teen garden intern program teaches young people how to plant, harvest, and prepare food for the farm stand. Visitors can also take the Historic Fair Hill Mural Tour, a self-guided experience that leads visitors around the perimeter of the burial grounds to see six murals honoring the 300-year-old fight for social justice.

New York

Thankfully, Black history in New York moved beyond the importation of enslaved Africans. Today, Black art, music, culinary influence, and leaders are celebrated throughout the city in a myriad of ways.   

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Louis Armstrong is one of the most legendary musicians in history. He and his wife Lucille settled in Corona, Queens in 1943 and today their home is a historic site and interactive museum. Though the physical museum is currently closed, virtual exhibits are available on the website. One exhibit, "Eulogizing the Chops": Louis Armstrong Warms Up, features photos and stories of Armstrong's warm-up methods and how they changed based on what he was thinking or feeling at the time. E-visitors can listen to actual clips of the world-renowned entertainer warming up and playing his famous trumpet. 

Louis Armstrong House Museum New York | WhereTraveler
Louis Armstrong House Museum (Courtesy Nick H.)

Langston Hughes House

Langston Hughes was many things. He was an author, a playwright, a poet, a social activist, and a resident of 20 East 127th Street in Harlem. The Langston Huges House is the three-story row house where he lived for the last 20 years of his life. It was in this house, on the top floor of the brownstone, that he became one of the foremost figures in the Harlem Renaissance, a literary movement focused on African American identity in the 1920s and 30s. His most notable depiction of Harlem from this time is in his volume Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). It's open to the public and currently home to the I,Too, Arts Collective, a non-profit that helps nurture creativity in underrepresented communities. They offer workshops, poetry salons, and provide affordable workspace to artists. 

Washington D.C.

Thousands of tourists come to the nation's capital every year to visit the plethora of historical monuments and museums in and around the city. Black history is American history and these sites are must-visits.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 and escaped in 1838 disguised as a sailor. At a young age, he learned that there was a link between literacy and freedom. He taught himself to read and eventually came upon The Columbian Orator, a collection of revolutionary speeches. He went on to become one of the most prominent abolitionists and writers of his day and served as U.S. Marshal to D.C. under five presidents. His home and estate, which he named Cedar Hill, became a national historic site in 1988. The grounds at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site offer sweeping views of the U.S. Capitol and the D.C. skyline. 

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Washington D.C. | WhereTraveler
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Courtesy Mary Kate A.)

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is the largest park on Capitol Hill and sits just east of the Capitol Building itself. There are monuments dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln and educator turned civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune. The statue of Lincoln depicts him in his customary frock coat with an African American man is kneeling before him. This man was modeled after Alexander Archer, the last person captured under the Fugitive Slave Act. Bethune's monument depicts her in the twilight of her life handing her legacy over to two Black children. Visitors can even stand where Frederick Douglass stood when he gave the keynote address at the 11th anniversary of President Lincoln's death (in front of 25,000 people President Grant, no less). 

Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Washington D.C. | WhereTraveler
Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial (Courtesy Susan L.)

MLK Memorial

In the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality, there are few leaders as recognizable as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His famous speeches and actions inspired change and they're engraved on his memorial in West Potomac Park next to the National Mall. The exact address is 1964 Independence Avenue, a nod to when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. It's also the first memorial to honor a Black individual on the National Mall. The 30-foot likeness of Dr. King is carved into the Stone of Hope which has emerged from a fissure that has split the Mountain of Despair in two. In March and April, the cherry trees surrounding the memorial are in full bloom, a serene and beautiful sight to behold. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Washington D.C. | WhereTraveler
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (©Dineda Nyepan)