Whether you’re looking to take a Black History walk (or drive) with the kids or you’d like to spend a thoughtful afternoon with a hands-on history lesson, here are some places where you can brush up on Black history in the DMV––and beyond.Less
It took two generations to establish and restore this spot as a National Historic Site. Cedar Hill is the Southeast DC home where escaped slave turned preeminent orator and scholar, Frederick Douglass, lived his final years. Now serving as an educational center, Cedar Hill runs tours and sponsors family-friendly events throughout the year, including Douglass’s birthday celebration.
To honor the most powerful voice of the Civil Rights movement, this memorial has 15 quotes etched in granite. And while the words are moving to read, hearing Dr. King give the famous “I Have a Dream” speech under his stone shadow is even more powerful (listening to the speech on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial is also a must do).
This church is the oldest Black church in Washington, DC. Once a slave and tobacco trading site in the early 1800s, it became a church in 1816 and later a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. It is believed a vault on the burial grounds was used to hide enslaved people as they made their way north.
The stunning building, inspired by Yoruba art and filigree ironwork, is filled with presentations and artifacts that give visitors a glimpse at all aspects—the good and the gut-wrenching—of the African American experience. It’s a must-visit for the entire family.
For a peek at the first DC statue to honor both a woman and an African-American, head to Lincoln Park to visit the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial (erected in 1974). Bethune is remembered as a civil rights leader, a suffragist and the first African-American woman to head a Federal agency. She may be best known for her contributions to education; she founded the Bethune-Cookman University, which is today’s only historically Black college to have been founded by a woman.
"Spirit of Freedom,' which sits at the corner of Vermont Avenue and 10th Street, honors the 209,145 Black soldiers and officers who served under the Bureau of United States Colored Troops in the fight to free enslaved Black Americans. Across the street, you'll find the African-American Civil War Museum.
This historically Black university sits on the edge of the U St. corridor in DC's Shaw neighborhood. Famous graduates includes our first Black, Asian and first woman Vice President Kamala Harris, the Supreme Court's first Black justice Thurgood Marshall, author Toni Morrison, the first Black mayor of NYC David Dinkins and more. The university's library, Founders Library, is listed on the national registry of historic places; it's bell tower can be seen prominently beyond campus.
Stretching two blocks on 16th St. (south of K St.), the Black Lives Matter Plaza feature a boldly painted yellow mural. The Plaza, along with a street sign bearing the same name, were dedicated on June 5, 2020 (the birthday of Breonna Taylor). Originally used as grounds for demonstrations due to the close proximity to the White House, in Oct. of 2021, it became a permanent installation and remains a pedestrian-friendly walkway where people often come to photograph the 50 ft. letters.
Take a ten minute walk from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and you will reach the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream." Step into history; eighteen steps from the top of the memorial is an inspiration dedicated to the very spot Martin Luther King Jr. stood when he addressed the crowd of 250,000 on the National Mall.
This museum celebrates the rich culture and history African Americans people in Virginia and has permanent exhibits that explore Jim Crow, Reconstruction, Emancipation and more.