5 American Cities That Thrive on Black Culture

From museums and art galleries to delicious food experiences, there's so much to discover.

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Sculptures of celebrated musicians in the Roots of Music Cultural Sculpture Garden in Armstrong Park, New Orleans.
Sculptures of celebrated musicians in the Roots of Music Cultural Sculpture Garden in Armstrong Park, New Orleans.
Photo: Kelly vanDellen (Shutterstock)

The word long doesn’t adequately express what we’ve experienced over the last 15 months. As we face another summer that looks far different from summers past, one thing is certain, and that is our need as melanated beings to be in spaces and places that celebrate our existence.

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America still has some of the best cities to both explore and immerse yourself in Black culture. From music and history, to art galleries, museums and food, we have created sanctuaries for ourselves that rejuvenate us in all the ways we need. Here are 5 cities in the U.S. famous for their Black culture:

Nashville, Tenn.

In January, Nashville—also known as Music City—became home to the National Museum of African American Music. For those wondering why a museum showcasing Black music and its roots would be housed in Tennessee, a state synonymous with country music, the proof is in its history. While Nashville is home to country music, as we know by now, country music shares its roots in African American musical traditions.

Museum attendees can explore six interactive galleries that recount the evolution of our musical legacy and how it connects to cities more notably known for Black music, like Chicago and Memphis.

Richmond, Va.

With a rich culture, an arts scene for the creative soul, and Black-owned restaurants and businesses, Richmond, Va., is worthy of your attention. Steeped in history—it was one of the largest slave-trading hubs on the East coast—you can walk the streets of neighborhoods like Blackwell and Jackson Ward to learn what some historians have tried to erase, and rediscover the charm of this city.

Whatever your needs and interests are, there is something for everyone. Spend a morning at BareSoul Yoga, a Black-owned studio where you can get your deep breathing and stretches in. Are you a wine and art connoisseur? Combine your two loves and hit up C’est Le Vin, a wine bar and gallery that showcases diverse art pieces and serves delicious tapas, food, and wines from around the world. You can find several spoken word events to snap your fingers to all around the city, as well as murals to admire. And be sure to make a stop at the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia. To plan your trip with ease, you can check out a list of events happening monthly, on the BLKRVA website.

Baltimore

Some would say the “B” in Baltimore stands for Black—and few would dispute it. With the spirits of ancestors who once called the city home (think Billie Holiday, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman) permeating the air, it’s one of the best places to experience Black American culture in its highest forms. Museums like the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, art galleries showcasing local talents like Galerie Myrtis, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum are wonderful places to soak up African American history and experience.

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The city’s otherworldly culinary scene is home to some of the best Black-owned restaurants, many mentioned in food magazines far and wide. A trip to Baltimore would not be complete without indulging in a crate of blue crabs. Stop by Phillips Seafood for their famous crab cakes, or visit the Black-owned Urban Oyster for their oysters and steamed crabs. Seafood not your thing? Try the Land of Kush, which has tasty vegan soul food that has been enjoyed by the likes of Angela Davis and Stevie Wonder. After an afternoon out, head over to Keystone Korner and be transported to a time when jazz music reigned supreme.

New Orleans

Like no other city in America, New Orleans is rich with African traditions from religion, to food, language, and music. Congo Square, in the French Quarter, was the heart of cultural flow for enslaved Africans in the 18th and 19th centuries. On Sundays, hundreds congregated there to play music, dance, socialize, and trade goods. Congo Square is considered the musical heartbeat of the Black music experience, and the birthplace of Jazz. There are several museums, like the New Orleans African American Museum, the Free People of Color Museum, and the Backstreet Cultural Museum, that showcase the culture, arts, and heritage of Black people in New Orleans.

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Delighting in the cuisine of New Orleans is an experience in itself. Dooky Chase is the place to be for Creole culinary excellence, and was once the meeting spot of Civil Rights leaders in the 1960’s. New Orleans is also home to Essence Fest, an annual festival that highlights the happenings in Black culture from tech and music, to health and wellness, and more.

Atlanta

Known as the “Black Mecca,” Atlanta is not just a place you visit, but an experience to be absorbed. At every corner, there is something to see, with the presence of ancestors felt on famous streets like Peachtree and Auburn Avenue, and sweet aromas of soul food to inhale, slowly and with intention.

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With a walk down Auburn Avenue, you’ll find historical sites like the King Center built by Coretta Scott King after her husband was assassinated. On this same street are the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Ebenezer Baptist Church where both Dr. King and his father preached, and the APEX Museum which takes visitors on a journey from Ancient African civilizations to modern-day Black America. Part of the Southern comfort that the south is known for is its food. From all-day brunches to celebrity-approved vegan burgers, to Ethiopian delights, every food adventure in Atlanta is a delight.

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