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.MoreLess
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.
The U Street corridor was once known as the Black Broadway district. Flanked by the Howard Theatre and 14th Street, this neighborhood was DC's cultural epicenter from the early 1900s to the mid '60s. Explore this cultural stomping ground by starting at Howard Theatre, the iconic stage where legends like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Nat King Cole got their start and heading northwest and pass the Bohemian Caverns and continue to the Lincoln Theatre.
Pay tribute to the iconic abolitionists Mary and Emily Edmonson. The bronze memorial at 1701 Duke St. in Alexandria sits steps away from the former Bruin's Jail where the sisters, then 15 and 13, were held after they tried to escape the clutches of slavery on a New Jersey-bound schooner, The Pearl. Just a few blocks away at 1315 Duke St. you'll find the Freedom House Museum, once the site of the largest slave trade in America.
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.