February is here, and with it comes an important designation: Black History Month. To celebrate and honor the lives of black Americans, we’ve rounded up sites across the U.S. that are a worthy visit for those wanting to educate themselves on the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, the ongoing struggle for equality, and so much more. Read on to learn about these five black history sites that both educate and inspire.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial – Washington, D.C.
Tucked along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on a 4-acre plot, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a stately testament to one of the civil rights movement’s most influential leaders. Heavy with symbolism, the memorial features two large boulders that create the Mountain of Despair, from which emerges the Stone of Hope, serving as the memorial’s focal point. Martin Luther King Jr.’s likeness is carved upon it, rising 30 feet high above a backdrop of some of his most famous quotes, etched into the wraparound inscription wall.
Beale Street Historic District – Memphis, Tennessee
For more than 150 years, these three blocks of downtown Memphis have played a paramount role in black history. From serving as a haven for black people migrating from small towns across the South, to inspiring the earliest blues music, to hosting some of the first black-owned businesses in the country, the energy of the Beale Street Historic District still pulses today. Stroll its streets to experience its storied nightlife, lively entertainment venues, art galleries, and award-winning restaurants.
National Museum of African American Music – Nashville, Tennessee
Did you know that almost all of today’s popular music has African American roots? That’s proudly evident in the new National Museum of African American Music in the heart of downtown Nashville. Just opened in 2021 after a nearly two-decade undertaking, the museum offers a theater, six permanent galleries, more than 1,600 unique artifacts (like one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets), a research library, and other homages to the history of black music.
National Museum for African American History and Culture – Washington, D.C.
Taking visitors through the history of slavery all the way up to the present-day struggle for justice and equality, the National Museum for African American History and Culture is the most comprehensive testament to black history in the country. With a wealth of exhibits on everything from black soldiers in the military to black athletes, the museum is the perfect place to immerse in black culture and history—and learn a lot in the process. The Washington, D.C., museum is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, so while you wait to visit in person, be sure to explore the museum’s virtual exhibits.
National Center for Civil Rights and Human Rights – Atlanta, Georgia
This interactive and educational center in downtown Atlanta aims to connect the history of civil rights to the ongoing struggle for equality and justice in the present day, with some hands-on experiences tucked among the exhibits. Visitors can participate in an interactive, virtual lunch counter sit-in, or peruse exhibits on segregation and Martin Luther King Jr. Plus, the museum also highlights other struggles for human rights around the world, like in its Spark of Conviction exhibit.