Black History Month: Exhibits, landmarks spotlight how African Americans shaped the United States

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 24, 2019

There are many U.S. museums and parks dedicated to honoring the history and culture of Black Americans, which the United States puts an even bigger spotlight on every year in February.

The following is a list of just some of the many exhibits and sites open across the country to check out for Black History Month in February.

Freedom! A Promise Disrupted: North Carolina, 1862-1901
The North Carolina Museum of History will have an exhibit from the end of January through June that spotlights the Civil War and how a 250,000 black people in North Carolina alone were in bondage. It reveals their journey of enduring racism in North Carolina that continued to limit them after the Civil War.

The Lucy Craft Laney Museum
This small house museum in Georgia is dedicated to the legacy of Lucy Craft Laney , who started the first kindergarten for Black children in Augusta, Georgia and founded the Lamar School of Nursing for Black women. There are several area buildings named in her honor.

California Bound: Slavery on the New Frontier, 1845-1865
There are many activities and exhibits happening year-round at the California African American Museum, and in particular, there are things for children to do to help them learn black history. A current exhibit open through April "examines California’s under-recognized involvement with slavery in the 19th century." Visitors will need to plan their visit to ensure they can attend specific events at this museum in Los Angeles.

Cultural Heritage Trail at Prince William Forest Park in Northern Virginia
The trail was created by an intern with the National Park Service who was tasked with "showcasing the legacy of an African American and racially mixed community (Batestown and Hickory Ridge) that thrived before the park was constructed in the 1930s." The site includes ruins of schools, baptismal sites, homesteads, churches and more.

The Rosa Parks Experience
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio has a virtual experience commemorating Parks’ demonstration that happened four days before the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. The virtual reality experience "was created to teach a new generation about the Civil Rights Movement from the first person perspective," the museum says.

The Art of Freedom
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia has an ongoing exhibit through mid-May that highlights art made by Virginians including various mediums ... "sculpture, acrylics, pastels, photographs, fabrics, jewelry and pottery." Conversations with "The Art of Freedom" artists are scheduled throughout the four months of the exhibition. The museum is in Richmond, Virginia.

National Civil Rights Museum
The famous museum in Memphis, Tennessee is at the site of the Lorraine Hotel , where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. It has several permanent exhibitions. Last year, the museum commemorated 50 years since King's death. The museum collects objects and artifacts related to civil rights history and African American history and culture .

Kingsley Plantation, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Located in Jacksonville, Florida, the land has more than 45,000 acres with individual sites to explore. The Kingsley cotton plantation is dedicated to the history of slavery. "A fifth of a mile from the plantation home of Zephaniah Kingsley are the remains of 25 tabby cabins. Arranged in a semicircle, there were 32 cabins originally, 16 on either side of the road. This area represents the slave community, homes of the men, women, and children who lived and worked on Kingsley Plantation more than 150 years ago," says the Kingsley Plantation website. An audio tour is available.

Can't travel? Here are some digital options
Ninteenth Century African American Activists
View a collection of portraits of people who joined William Henry Richards in suffrage and temperance movements and in education, journalism and the arts. Richards was a Harvard University Law School professor and civil rights activist.

Smith Plantation
Photos of slaves taken at the J.J. Smith Plantation in Beaufort, South Carolina, are available online in the Library of Congress and also by Getty. The Smith Plantation was occupied by Union soldiers during the war and photos show a large group of slaves gathering to be freed. It was the first time many of them had ever had a photo taken. (The photo at the top of this particle is from the Smith Plantation, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs
This collection is in the Library of Congress with images made digital for everyone's viewing. It shows people of all races who were involved in the Civil War; some are unidentified.

Paying homage to Black History Heroes
NPR has an archive of short vignettes (audio) paying tribute to the heroes of African American history in the U.S. Most of the vignettes are two minutes or shorter.