We can’t forget our history. It reminds us of our trials as well as our triumphs. And travel gives us the opportunity to experience, firsthand, the black-history moments we’ve only read about and seen on TV and in movies.
“You have to explore African-American historical travel for yourself. Seeing the images, museums and landmarks in the media cannot begin to convey the complexity of our journey from Africa through slavery and to the modicum of freedom we have now, ” says Elaine Lee, author of Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure.
To help you plan, here are The Root’s picks for the five best black-history-related travel destinations.
1. Follow the path from slavery to freedom in Savannah, Ga.
Savannah is a pretty city with an ugly past. Known as “the weeping time,” in 1859 the largest slave auction in U.S. history (436 men, women and children) took place at a Savannah racetrack. In commemoration of the Africans brought into America through Savannah’s port, a local artist created the African-American Families Monument (at the west end of historic River Street). The bronze statue inscribed with words by Maya Angelou depicts a black family with broken shackles at their feet.
A short walk from the statue, in Franklin Square, is Savannah’s First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in North America. Original pews made by slaves have been preserved. And holes and prayer symbols carved into the lower auditorium’s floorboards indicate that the church was a point on the Underground Railroad. Guided tours are given daily, except Mondays. Another significant site is the Laurel-Grove South Cemetery, the city’s segregated burial ground for slaves and free people of color.
2. Trace the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama.
The Civil Rights Trail encompasses landmarks and attractions in several neighboring towns in Alabama, all accessible by car. Among the important sites are the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four little Sunday-school girls (Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley) were killed in 1963; and the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, which honors the mother of the early civil rights movement and depicts events that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.