16 Life-Changing Black History Museums
One great way to honor Black History Month is to learn about African American heritage and culture. There are plenty of great online resources, like digital exhibits, blogs, and videos, but these 16 Black History Museums offer unmatched in-person learning experiences. And considering many of them might only be a short drive away from where you live, they’re certainly road-trip-worthy destinations.
- Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
This site documents the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s a comprehensive walkthrough of that historical period on the inside, but this museum is also surrounded by other noteworthy sites like the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park.
- Little Rock, Arkansas: Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Since opening its doors in the early 2000s, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s mission has been to tell the stories of African Americans, specifically in the state of Arkansas. Through both exhibits and education, this museum preserves and celebrates the stories of African Americans right in their home state.
- St. Petersburg, Florida: Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum
This Florida landmark focuses on the history of African Americans in the surrounding St. Petersburg community. It’s named after Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an accomplished author who launched the first annual observance of Black History Week in 1926. Dr. Woodson’s celebration week became what we now know as Black History Month in 1976.
- Atlanta, Georgia: APEX Museum
Located in the heart of Georgia’s capital city, the APEX Museum boasts that it’s the oldest Black History Museum in Atlanta. The museum offers an in-depth view of history, and the building itself was constructed more than 100 years ago by African American masons.
- Chicago, Illinois: DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum has both permanent and temporary exhibits, and it’s located in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park. The museum holds more than 15,000 pieces, including sculptures, written works, paintings, historical artifacts, and more. The museum says it is “dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation, study, and the dissemination of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans.”
- Wallace, Louisiana: Whitney Plantation Museum
This former plantation was restored over a 15-year period and opened as a museum in 2014 to educate the Louisiana public about the history of slavery. Today, the Whitney Plantation Museum is Louisiana’s only museum specifically dedicated to telling the stories of enslaved people.
- Natchez, Mississippi: Natchez Museum of African American Culture and History
The Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture was created in 1990. Since then, the organization has led the way in researching, collecting, and displaying cultural and historical contributions African Americans have made to help Natchez (and the nation) grow. The organization launched the Natchez Museum of African American Culture and History in 1991.
- Kansas City, Missouri: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
When it first opened in the early 1990s, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was housed inside a single room in Kansas City, Missouri. Now, it shares a building with the American Jazz Museum and has 10,000 square feet filled with artifacts and exhibits “dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America.”
- Greensboro, North Carolina: International Civil Rights Center & Museum
The nonviolent sit-in movement was an integral part of the Civil Rights era, and this museum seeks to provide historical context and education around it. The museum celebrates the young men who began the movement and pushed for desegregation in the South, as well as others who helped maintain its momentum.
- Charleston, South Carolina: International African American Museum
During the era of slavery, Charleston served as a port where many slaves were brought to North America. The museum’s ground level is home to the African Ancestors Memorial Garden, highlighting the precise piece of shoreline where many enslaved people set foot in America for the first time. It is now a place for quiet reflection and a spot for programs and performances. The museum’s exhibits honor untold stories and show how African American culture and influence spread throughout the United States.
- Memphis, Tennessee: National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is at the former Lorraine Motel—the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The approximate location on the hotel balcony where Dr. King was shot is now marked with a wreath, and visitors can pay their respects during a visit to the museum complex. The museum presents visitors with an opportunity to see how this significant period has shaped history (and continues to) in the U.S. and abroad.
- Dallas, Texas: African American Museum
This museum began as a part of the Special Collections at Bishop College but now operates independently. It boasts one of the largest collections of African American Folk Art in the United States, as well as several other expansive collections and rotating temporary exhibits that focus on the Dallas community and national issues in African American history.
- Richmond, Virginia: Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
Housed in the historic Leigh Street Armory, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia exists to share stories of African American history in Virginia. The museum wants to preserve stories (whether they’re famous and widely shared or rarely told and often forgotten) that can teach and inspire people.
- Cape May, New Jersey: Harriet Tubman Museum
In the 1850s, Harriet Tubman lived in Cape May and used the money she earned in the coastal New Jersey town to fund her journeys to help enslaved people find freedom. Now, more than 150 years later, the Harriet Tubman Museum has opened on a block that Cape May’s anti-slavery activists in the 1800s once called home.
- Nashville, Tennessee: National Museum of African American Music
This Music City Museum exists “to educate the world, preserve the legacy, and celebrate the central role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack.” It does so with exhibits that highlight and celebrate the different genres of music African American men and women created, influenced, or helped inspire.
- Louisville, Kentucky: Roots 101 African-American Museum
The Roots 101 African-American Museum calls downtown Louisville home, and it has a wide range of exhibits, activities, and programs for all ages to help “promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievement, contribution, and experiences of African Americans.”
Can’t make a road trip happen this month? These museums are open year-round, and there’s never a bad time to learn something new or gain new perspective. You can also check out the blogs below to read about some of the other incredible contributions Black Americans have made to our world.