When you think about Black history in this country, there are plenty of locations that come to mind. From Oakland to Memphis, D.C. and more, the options are endless for a lens into our music, our museums and our culture as a whole. But there are some locations in this country that have great Black history (and businesses) in them, and they don’t always get the same amount of attention or love like the more popular destinations. We’ve rounded up a few low-key places that you may not have been to but you would benefit from visiting this Black History Month — or sometime soon.
From a Black History tour of Downtown Grand Rapids highlighting significant points throughout the city (including Fountain Street Church where MLK and Langston Hughes visited), to the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, there are plenty of things to see in this underrated Northern city. There are also plenty of Black-owned businesses to visit as well, in addition to gorgeous murals from BIPOC artists as part of The 49507 Project.
Close to 150 miles from Atlanta, Augusta is the place James Brown once called home. Born there, Augusta now is home to a James Brown exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History. There’s also a statue of the legendary musician, along with a tour you can take with his daughter, Deanna, to some of his favorite places in the city. It’s also the location of the first school for African American children, as well as one of the oldest congregations in Springfield Baptist Church. And Augusta puts on an African American History Walk that honors local icons and leaders in Black history.
You may not immediately think of Black history when you think about Ohio, but the state had over 3,000 miles of routes on the Underground Railroad, including a few significant stops in Columbus. Other must-see things include the a Black History tour with historian Rita Fuller-Yates, the 45th Annual African American Heritage Festival, the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park, the Kelton House Museum & Garden, home to former abolitionists, and more.
Don’t sleep on Santa Barbara. In addition to being known for great beaches, it has some history to explore when you’re ready to stop lying out in the sun. The first Black cartoon animator for Disney Studios, Floyd Norman, was born and raised in SB, and a myriad of animation materials, cartoons and interviews with him can be found at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Black-owned businesses are also making waves in the area, including Pura Luna Women’s Apothecary, a wellness shop, Razi Cultural Beauty, the Summerland Salon and Spa, Mylestone BBQ, Gipsy Hill Bakery, and the restaurant Soul Bites.
If you find yourself in Kansas, make a stop in Topeka, which many may not realize played a big part in the Civil Rights Movement. Monroe Elementary, the school involved in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Case, is located there. The Ritchie House built by abolitionists John and Mary Jane Ritchie, was a station along the Underground Railroad. Constitution Hall, where the headquarters of the Underground Railroad was, can also be found in Topeka.
New York State is rife with history. The Path Through History initiative brings visitors an array of spots to see, including old and new celebrations of Black history. They include the new Sojourner Truth State Park, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, and the Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum, among a whole host of spots. And of course, you can’t go wrong taking a trip into the city when you’re done. You’ll enjoy yourself, whehter you visit the Jackie Robinson Museum in Manhattan, or the Apollo Theater, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the restaurant Melba’s and the Apollo Theater, all uptown in Harlem.