Located in Washington, D.C.'s historic U Street neighborhood, the museum preserves the stories of black troops in the American Civil War. It's also home to a 9-foot bronze statue depicting black soldiers and one sailor. Spend some time on the museum's grounds, and if you're hungry afterward, walk across the street to the famous Ben's Chili Bowl and treat yourself to a hearty meal.
When most folks think of black history in the Big Apple, they immediately recall Harlem. That might not be totally fair, as neighborhoods in other boroughs have rich and impressive African-American heritage as well. Weeksville, in Brooklyn's famous Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, was a town founded by black freedmen in the 1830s and quickly became a thriving, independent black community of more than 500 residents. It had its own churches, schools and cemeteries.
Cool, isn't it? What's even cooler is the Hunterfly Road Houses, a historic landmark and tourist destination comprised of four houses belonging to the Weeksville community, built between 1840 and 1880.
Stop off at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. The institute (its director is Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root's editor-in-chief) houses research from every cranny of black history and culture, including the transatlantic slave trade, black genealogy and black pop music. It's also home to the Rudenstine Gallery, the only exhibition space at Harvard dedicated to black art. And its Hiphop Archive, which chronicles the history and impact of the culture, is the only space of its kind on the East Coast.
Headed south? Make your first stop in Charlotte, and visit the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture. What started as the Black Studies Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the 1960s is now a nerve center for all things black art — in Charlotte and beyond. Patrons can browse rare African-American art collections, see multimedia black art installations and attend lectures and dance workshops.
For some civil rights history, head down to Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the reverend. The church, along with King's birth home and grave, is named under the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which is administered by the National Park Service.
You don't have to travel the entire Freedom Riders' route, from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, to learn the history of the famous nonviolent protests. At the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, photographs, quotes and video and art exhibits tell the story of the movement that helped to end segregation in public transportation.
You can't road-trip in the Midwest without stopping in Detroit to pay homage to the 20th-century switchboard of black popular music. Motown was home to the most legendary black performers of our time, including Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and of course, The Jackson Five. Take a tour of Hitsville and learn about Motown's place in music history.
The King of Pop was raised in Gary, a small town just outside of Chicago. Road trippers can't enter the home, but they can pull up to the small, square ranch house — located on what is now called Jackson Street — where the King of Pop was raised and groomed for stardom.
This stop is rare as it is one of few independently owned African-American museums in the country. Located in the city's Hyde Park, it was named after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, who is credited with establishing a settlement in 1779 that would eventually be called Chicago. The institution boasts more than 15,000 sculptures, paintings and other historic black artifacts.
If you're traveling the I-5 in California, stop by one of the most unique black museums in the country. The AAFFM is the first and only of its kind, an institution celebrating the contributions of black firefighters, who have been serving the city of Los Angeles for more than 115 years. The museum contains vintage fire trucks, images and stories and pictures of black firefighters, as well as a memorial to the fighters who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
It was once considered a bizarre food combination, and now it's a mainstay on most soul-food menus. Even IHOP makes a version, and the pancake house should thank Roscoe's for the inspiration. Harlem native Herb Hudson opened the first location in 1975, and it's been one of Cali's favorite fast-food spots ever since. There are six restaurants in the Los Angeles metro area, but go to the original locale in Hollywood to enjoy a piece of history with your piece of chicken.
End your trip with your fists up in Oakland and hit up Black Panther Tours, which will take you to historical sites that were significant to the Black Panther Party. The bus tour makes stops at the first Black Panther offices, the site of the 1967 shootout and the home of founder Huey P. Newton.