Much like American history, memorials tend to be segregated along racial lines, with buildings and streets bearing the names of prominent African Americans appearing primarily in communities of color. Raise your hand if you’ve driven down a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard or a Malcolm X Way while going to visit the relatives.
So today we wanted to look at a few of the everyday places and spaces used by everyone that pay tribute to African Americans—some famous and some not so well-known. These places have become woven into the everyday fabric of American life, just as black history should.
Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University is the first and only Division I school to name a stadium for an African American. Jack Trice was an Iowa State football player who died from injuries sustained in a football game in 1923. As noted in a compelling story about Trice in SB Nation, it’s unclear whether his injuries were the result of a racial attack by opposing players. But clearly, Trice’s stature grew to mythical proportions in a town not known for having a large African-American community.
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Charleston, S.C.
Ralph H. Johnson was a Marine Corps private who was killed in action in the Vietnam War and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for sacrificing himself by diving on a hand grenade and saving the life of another Marine.
Dr. A.H. McCoy Federal Building, Jackson, Miss.
Dr. A.H. McCoy was a prominent dentist, businessman and civil rights activist who was president of the Mississippi NAACP in the 1950s. The building that bears his name is the first federal building in the United States named for an African American.
BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Baltimore
Named for Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, and the lawyer who successfully argued before that same court the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is one of three major airports serving the area.
Matthew J. Perry, Jr. Courthouse, Columbia, S.C.
As a civil rights lawyer for the NAACP, Matthew J. Perry helped desegregate schools and college campuses—including Clemson University and the University of South Carolina—as well as beaches, golf courses and hospitals. His defense of a woman who refused to leave a white-only waiting room at a hospital was so aggressive, he was cited for contempt of court. In 1979 he became South Carolina’s first black federal judge.
Jackie Robinson Parkway, New York City
Formerly known as the Interboro Parkway, the nearly 5-mile roadway—which runs through the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens—was renamed after Jackie Robinson in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier in major-league baseball.
Arthur Ashe Stadium, Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Located in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the Arthur Ashe Stadium is one of the largest tennis venues in the world and the main venue for the U.S. Open. In 1968 Arthur Ashe won the first U.S. Open of the open era, becoming the first black man to win the title. The tennis center is also home to Louis Armstrong Stadium, not far from the Corona neighborhood of Queens, where the New Orleans jazz legend had a home.
New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
Ernest N. Morial was the first black mayor of New Orleans and the father of Marc Morial, who was also a New Orleans mayor. The convention center gained notoriety in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina when residents were trapped and left in squalid conditions with no food, power or water.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
The airport is just one of several places around the world named for the jazz legend, the city’s native son.
Louis Stokes VA Medical Center, Cleveland
Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Oakland, Calif.
Ronald V. Dellums served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1970 to 1998 and was Oakland mayor from 2007 to 2011.
Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, Chicago
Jesse Brown was a Marine and a Vietnam vet who served in President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as secretary of veteran affairs. He was the first African American to hold the position.
McCovey Cove, San Francisco
Baseball players with serious home run skills can drive a baseball in the cove, just outside the right field wall of AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play their home games. The cove is named after Hall of Famer and Giants first baseman Willie McCovey.