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VIRGINIA CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS

NORFOLK

Accessible, accommodating, action-packed and affordable, Norfolk, Virginia blends business with pleasure. Combining metropolitan style with small town sensibility, Norfolk, offers a host of hotels, convention facilities, dynamic attractions, retail merchants, and a restaurant and theater district nearly unrivaled in the Commonwealth.

Built in 1919 as a regional mecca for entertainment and as a cultural center for the minority community, the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk is the nation's oldest theater designed, developed, financed and operated entirely by African-Americans. Once known as the "Apollo of the South," the Attucks Theatre, now a state and national landmark, has been restored to its original glory as a performance arts theatre. Be sure to catch one of the many concerts and performances that take place here throughout the year.

Norfolk's First Baptist Church was established in 1800 as an interracial congregation including Whites, free Blacks and slaves. Now it stands as a registered national landmark and includes a small museum of artifacts.

Norfolk State University is a Historically Black University founded in 1935 as the Norfolk branch of Virginia Union University. In 1956, an Act of the Virginia Legislature enabled the Institution to offer Bachelor degrees. It became an independent college in 1969. By 1979, it evolved into a university and it now includes undergraduate and graduate schools in many disciplines. The African American Civil War Memorial in Norfolk is one of the South's few memorials to Black Civil War veterans or any Union Civil War Veterans. In 1906, the statue's granite base was dedicated to Black soldiers and sailors from all wars. By 1920 sufficient private funds were raised to commission a statue to complete the monument. The statuesque figure of an African-American Union soldier, represents Norfolk native Sgt. William H. Carney, a member of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. Carney was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18, 1863. One hundred veterans are laid to rest within the cemetery, most of them from the Civil War and Spanish-American War.

Named in honor of the first Black governor of Virginia, the exquisite and luxurious L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center seats over 1,800 spectators. Upon entry, a grand staircase and spiral crystal chandelier serve as the focal points catching your eye. Attend a concert or play on its Broadway-quality stage and listen to excellent acoustics for the many and varied musical performances year round.

RICHMOND

Prior to the Civil War, Jackson Ward, the 40-block community within walking distance of the Greater Richmond Convention Center, was a melting pot of nationalities, including free African-Americans, German and Irish immigrants and White Richmonders. After the war, this African-American community became known as "the Harlem of the South" and the birthplace of Black capitalism, also earning it the nickname "America's Black Wall Street." Here in "The Ward," Maggie L. Walker became the first female bank president when she established the bank now known as Consolidated Bank & Trust. Jackson Ward also was the birthplace of dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Broadway actor Charles Gilpin.

Learn more about the contributions of African-Americans to the history of the Richmond Region at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia or the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site. Explore more than 150 years of history during a tour of eight African-American cemeteries, including the final resting places for Maggie L. Walker, Arthur Ashe Jr. and many other prominent Richmonders and African-Americans.

If you're visiting the Richmond Region during the summer or fall, don't miss the many festivals and events planned to celebrate African-American heritage, past and present. Every Friday evening from May through August, savor the sounds of Fridays at Sunset, an outdoor concert series held at downtown's Kanawha Plaza. If you're looking for family fun, don't miss the Down Home Family Reunion, an annual festival celebrating African-American folklife, every August. In October, Richmond's African-American community comes alive during the annual Second Street Festival, which celebrates the 1920s through 1940s with music, food and shopping. And for holiday visitors, celebrate Kwanzaa during the annual Capital City Kwanzaa Festival. Many of these celebrations are planned by the Elegba Folklore Society, a non-profit organization that offers cultural arts programming and educational opportunities to promote a deeper understanding of the rich diversity of these African-American traditions.

VIRGINIA BEACH

As a popular meetings destination, Virginia Beach offers the excitement of a large metropolitan area, nestled in the mild climate of a rich coastal atmosphere. Dig a little further and you will discover a destination rich in history and culture. Peek into the lives of Virginia Beach's earliest residents at the historic sites, including the Cape Henry Lighthouse, Adam Thoroughgood House (circa 1680) and Lynnhaven House (1725). During a Histories and Haunts Ghost Tour, a talented "scaryteller" spins tales of tragic shipwrecks, haunted hotels and a spirit still on duty at the Old Coast Guard Station.

The Morning Star Baptist Church, founded in 1892 by several members of Ebenezer Baptist Church, is one of the oldest African-American churches still standing in Virginia Beach. Church members are collecting memorabilia and artifacts that depict the lives of local African-Americans from 1892 to the late 1950s, which are on display periodically.


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