Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

COLUMBIA, SC

Columbia has one of the best cultural and heritage tourism products in the country, to get started head to historiccolumbia.org.

Start with a tour of the Randolph Cemetery. The cemetery was founded by a small group of African-American men and named in honor of Senator Benjamin Franklin Randolph. Randolph was one of the first Black elected leaders to hold statewide public office during the era of Reconstruction in 1868. His time in office was short lived as he was assassinated in October of that year. This cemetery is believed to be the only cemetery in America to contain 10 African American legislators from the Reconstruction period.

The Mann-Simons Cottage was one of the few houses in South Carolina owned by Blacks in the antebellum days. The Mann-Simons Cottage was owned by Celia Mann. Legend has it she bought her freedom and walked from Charleston where she was born into slavery to Columbia around 1844.

While in Columbia visit the African American History Museum, Big Apple - a popular African-American nightspot, Modjeska Monteith Simkins House - the second home of one of the early members of the NAACP. Simkins played an integral role in Brown vs. Board of Education.

HIGH POINT, NC

Mendenhall Plantation houses one of two remaining false-bottom wagons used by the Underground Railroad. The High Point Museum houses a piano and some sheet music once owned by jazz legend John Coltrane. This museum also features other elements germane to Black history. The City Hall Plaza downtown has an eight-foot bronze statue of Coltrane and his saxophone.

High Point is continuing to expand its heritage and cultural tourism product. Five years ago they created their first African American Heritage Guide and recently purchased the birth home of Coltrane to refurbish and share with the world.

The Doll and Miniature Museum is a must see featuring a vast collection of dolls and focuses on African-American heritage through the Mary Washington Personality Doll; including Martin Luther King, Jr. Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.

To learn more about High Point go to highpoint.org or highpointmuseum.org.

JACKSON, MS

Jackson is steeped in African-American heritage and played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement. Much of that history has been captured through museums such as the Smith Robertson Museum named after Mr. Smith Robertson, born a slave in Alabama in 1847. Robertson migrated to Jackson after the Civil War where he ran a successful barbering business and became the first African-American alderman in the city of Jackson.

The Medgar Evers home is a must see. Visitors get a look at a day in the life of the slain Civil Rights icon as the NAACP's first full time state field secretary in 1954. Despite death threats that eventually claimed his life, Evers continued his work monitoring, collecting and publicizing data on civil rights violations.

The Farish Street Historical District is a 125-acre late nineteenth century grid-patterned neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a prized repository of 100 years of rich African-American heritage. Make sure you stop at Birdland (formerly known as The Crystal Palace Night Club) where Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong once performed. Other points on interest in the Farish Street District include Big Apple Inn and Peaches Café.

Coming in the summer of 2009 is Phase I of the Farish Street Entertainment District. Plans for this district include a hotel, gospel museum, a radio station, restaurants and artsy businesses. Jackson, as many of you know, is home to the Blues. There are many sites in the "City With Soul" to check out, starting with 930 Blues Café. International Blues artists perform every Friday and Saturday night with local artists featured Monday through Thursday.

Also check out the Mississippi Blues Trail. The trail includes the birthplace of music legend BB King, and markers honoring Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. To learn more about this trail log on to msbluestrail.org.

For a more comprehensive look at heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in Jackson, go to visitjackson.com.

KNOXVILLE, TN

An exciting new wireless Wi-Fi network has been established in the downtown area to promote Knoxville's Black heritage tours through digital storytelling. The Knoxville African American Tours of Cultural Heritage will offer cultural heritage tours encompassing 15 historically significant sites.

Tour participants will be able to view digital photographs and other visuals accompanied by narration and music that presents Knoxville's Black heritage as they walk or drive along a prescribed route. Anyone with a wireless enabled device should be able to take one of these tours.

Visitors should start at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The Center features the history of African-Americans in east Tennessee from the late 1800s to the present. Take a look at the William H. Hastie Collection. Hastie became the first Black governor of the Virgin Islands in 1946 and the first Black federal judge in the United States in 1950.

If you happen to be in Knoxville in late June take in the sites of the Kuumba Festival. It's a fantastic African-American Cultural Arts Festival that showcases art and world class performing artists.

To learn more about Knoxville log on to Knoxville.org.

NORFOLK, VA

Norfolk offers a solid heritage and cultural tourism product. Adding to their excitement is a research grant the city recently received to preserve Norfolk's role in the Underground Railroad. In concert with a local university, the city will produce a map of those sites that will eventually be downloadable from their website for walking tours.


(CONTINUED)

Advertisement