Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2013
Heritage Tourism Not Only A Strong Draw During Black History Month But All Year Long
By: Michael Bennett
Black History Month was actually founded as Negro History Week in 1926. This celebration of Black history was the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves. He and three others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Woodson recognized during a 1915 event in Chicago celebrating the 50th anniversary to the end of slavery, that history as it was taught at the time did not mention the contributions or plight of African-Americans. To highlight Black history ASNLH produced pamphlets, books and other materials that provided the framework for what would become Negro History Week.

The original Negro History Week was celebrated during the second week of February. That week was chosen because it was the birth week of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976, Black History Week was expanded and became Black History Month. Each year this month comes with a theme. The theme for 2013 is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality.” The first part of that theme, “Freedom” refers to the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. While the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t legally free all the slaves, President Lincoln’s signature on this historic document paved the way to passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

The second part of theme refers to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for equality highlighted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” These two seminal events in Black history did not occur during Black History Month. The March on Washington occurred in late August and the Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863.

While the nation celebrates these achievements in a single month the movement of history didn’t stop and wait for February. Rosa Parks didn’t wait until February to refuse to give up her seat. Today, heritage tourism is a booming year-round business. The museums and events in places like Birmingham, Baltimore, Greensboro, Washington DC, Pensacola, Norfolk and Charlottesville, VA are more than Black History Month destinations.

Study after study suggests that heritage tourism plays a major role in the selection of a vacation destination. Below are some places with year-round offerings to consider for your next trip.

This city was a hot bed of civil rights. Dr. King decided to pursue his non-violent campaign in Birmingham because of the intransigence of local leaders to embrace and evolve on civil rights. Much of that heritage has been captured at exhibits and museums throughout the city from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingraham Park.

Several events will be held throughout 2013 to embrace civil rights heritage. From February 2 through March 28 the Birmingham Public Library has an exhibit entitled “Unseen…Unforgotten: Exhibit of Civil Rights Photographs from the Birmingham News.”

Starting in mid-March for a month the Birmingham Public Library has something called “Civil Rights Sleuths: Tracing the Clues of the Movement,” in which you’ll be provided clues to help you find your way through the city and its history.

An art exhibit at Vulcan Park and Museum starts April 1 and ends September 30, called “A Place of Our Own...The Fourth Avenue District, Civil Rights and the Rise of Birmingham’s Black Middle Class,” illustrates how the Black business district propelled the Civil Rights Movement. Go to 50yearsforward/events to find a full years worth of heritage tourism events about the Civil Rights Movement – everything from live music, to theater, sports, reunions, children’s festivities, Juneteenth and more.

Also head to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute website for tours or the CVB website at for a complete list of all that Birmingham has to offer.  Birmingham heritage is not restricted to Civil Rights. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame at the Carver Theatre features interactive exhibits and recalls the contributions of Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Space Arkestra, along with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins, all of whom had Alabama ties.

One of the more symbolic moments of the Civil Rights era occurred on February 1, 1960, when four Black North Carolina A & T University students sat down at the F.W. Woolworth “whites only” lunch counter. This act of defiance launched the sit-in movement. The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is now housed in the same building as the Woolworth store. The original lunch counter and stools are still in their original location. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday year-round.

The African American Atelier Gallery provides rotational exhibits, gallery talks and artist forums from local, regional, national and international artists. On July 13 head to the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum for African American Heritage Day. From 11am to 4pm visitors will be treated to great food, vendors, performances, children’s games and exhibitors. The museum and site will be open and the event is free.

In May join former Tonight Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks and Stanley Jordan for a night of jazz at High Point Theatre. And on March 30 at the Greensboro Coliseum is 14-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.

And for those who love sports the ACC Hall of Champions (Atlantic Coast Conference) located at the Greensboro Coliseum celebrates the past, present and future of one of the most storied conferences in all of college sports. The coliseum has been the site of both the ACC and NCAA men and women’s basketball tournaments. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 am to 4pm. For a complete list of Greensboro attractions log on to

No city arguably has more monuments and memorials that pay tribute to African-Americans or chronicle the suffering of our ancestors than Washington DC. It covers a period of time from the nation’s founding through current day with sites such as the African American Civil War Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. These and other historic destinations such as Arlington National Cemetery where Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and boxer Joe Louis are buried and the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum are open daily.

Several DC attractions are free to the public. The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial are just a few and many are within walking distance of one another.  Other free attractions include the National Museum of African Art, National World War II Memorial and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is administered by the National Park Service and sits at 1411 W. St, SE in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC. Douglass lived in the house he nicknamed Cedar Hill for 22 years until his death. Ford’s Theatre’s is one of DC’s premiere destinations to explore the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. This working-theatre is the site of Lincoln’s assassination with artifacts related to his death including John Wilkes Booth’s derringer pistol.

Upcoming productions include Fly, based on the Tuskegee Airmen. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation holds its annual gathering here each September. It’s one of the largest gatherings of African-Americans in the country. Many of the topics discussed include culture, economics, heritage and legacy.

The birthplace of Duke Ellington and the center of Washington’s African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century is U Street. This neighborhood is thriving once again with designer stores, boutiques and music venues near the intersection of 14th and U Street. If dancing the night away is your thing try LOVE on Friday night. This nightclub is a celebrity magnet attracting the likes of P. Diddy, Jamie Fox and many of the country’s top athletes.

Also pay attention to any forthcoming announcements as August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. This city has so much to offer, visitors should plan on spending a few days in DC or plan multiple visits to take it all in. Learn more about our nation’s capital by clicking on to

African-American were among the first non-Native Americans to set foot in the United States when they were brought over as slaves in 1559 to Pensacola, where they continue to play a vital role in the city’s history.

Walk along the streets of historic downtown, from Seville Square to Martin Luther King, Jr., Plaza and experience that history with stops at the African-American Heritage Society and Old Christ Church. The church, built by slaves in 1824 is the oldest church in the state still on its original site. Also along the journey through historic downtown is The Julee Cottage Museum, a simple wood-frame building built around 1804. It’s the city’s only surviving “sidewalk to street” construction. It belonged to Julee Patton, a free woman of color who purchased the freedom of fellow enslaved Blacks and now serves as a Black history museum.

The Florida panhandle community of Pensacola is the birth home of Daniel ”Chappie” James, Jr., the first Black four-star general in U.S. military history. Shortly after his retirement in the late 1970s many were recruiting James to run for Lt. Governor of the state of Florida before he died of a heart attack. The private residence where James was born still stands and a marker honoring him is located in the city’s Memorial Garden on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Three events to check out are the Pensacola JazzFest in April, Smokin’ In the Square BBQ Cookoff in March and the city’s annual Mardi Gras parade in February. To learn more go to

Nestled along the foothills of the Blue Ridges Mountains, this most picturesque of American cities is home to Monticello, the architectural masterpiece and plantation home of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Guided tours are offered to this mountaintop home throughout the year with outdoor garden and plantation tours available between April and October.

The original grounds of the University of Virginia; including the Rotunda and the Lawn were designed by Thomas Jefferson. This “Academic Village” as he called it along with Jefferson’s Monticello home are both designated World Heritage Sites by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Conducted tours of the Rotunda are offered daily between 10am and 4pm. The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American Studies at the University of Virginia holds events and symposiums throughout the year.

Check this website for event details.

The Jefferson School has stood for 125 years as a symbol of the dedication of the Charlottesville Black community to the education of children. Efforts are underway to establish the African American Heritage and Cultural Center on the site along with the recently opened Carver Recreation Center. Go to for details.

Once knows as the “Apollo of the South,” The Attucks Theatre, named after Crispus Attucks the first African-American to lose his life during the Boston Massacre, is the oldest remaining legitimate theatre in the nation. It was completely financed, designed, constructed and operated by African-Americans.

Built in 1919, the theatre is still very much active with live musical performances, plays and dramatic readings. Attucks Theatre is on the state and national register of historic places. The Chrysler Museum of Art has over 30,000 pieces of art spanning 5,000 years, including African and African-American artwork.

At the corner of Brambleton Avenue and Church Street stands an 83-ft. granite monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other slain Civil Rights leaders. Another Norfolk site worth a visit is the West Point Monument at Elmwood Cemetery. It’s recognized by many as the South’s only known tribute to African-American veterans of the Civil and Spanish American Wars. A statute of Sergeant Carney, the first Black solider to be killed during the war, marks the Virginia Civil War Trail site.

The Annual Norfolk Jazz Festival is slated for July19-21 and the Annual AT&T Bayou Boogaloo and Cajun Food Festival is set for June 20-23.  The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Basketball tournament featuring 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) will be held in Norfolk at Scope Arena starting in March of 2013 for the three years. There are sure to be lots of festivities and cultural events surrounding this tournament. Head to for information about these and other events.

Home to the 2013 Super Bowl champions, this city is a treasure trove Black history and culture. This city was either the home of or influenced by legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday; orator Frederick Douglass; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman to name a few.

Three distinct museums capture their stories and the exploits of other famous African-Americans. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is the largest African-American museum on the East Coast. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the first museum to celebrate African-American history in the nation. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park is a national heritage site that explores African-American maritime history.

There are several events commemorating Black History Month extending beyond February for all to enjoy. Here are a few. At the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland now through May 26 is an exhibit called “Defining Moments: An Exhibition of Works by Bryan Collier.” Works on display includes imagery from his children’s books “Martin’s Big Words,” “Rosa” and “Barack Obama.”

“Musical Roots: From Africa to America” will be performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with two performances on February 27. Come and explore the roots of jazz and blues and uncover the influence of African drumbeats, moving spirituals and ragtime on today’s most popular genres. Throughout the year, Maryland will celebrate Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her passing. The centennial will include special events, performances, art exhibits and more.

One way to learn more about Tubman is through the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum group tours offered through March 31. Check out “Preach! New Works by Jeffrey Kent,” now through March 31 at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park. This solo show by Baltimore-based artist Jeffrey Kent explores current political events through racially charged imagery.

Other events will be held during Black History Month and other times throughout the year at the B & O Railroad Museum, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum and the USS Constellation – Pier 1. Check with Baltimore’s CVB at or Maryland Tourism at for event announcements.