10 museums to visit during Black History Month that celebrate culture, history
This April marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and its accompanying Legacy Museum, in Montgomery, Alabama.
The national memorial is dedicated to the legacy of those who endured centuries of racial violence and injustice, according to the EJI website. That includes “enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”
During Black History Month, which starts Feb. 1, dive deeper into African American History and civil rights at these and nine other sites across the country:
National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum
The memorial is set on a 6-acre site, where art and design put racial terror into context, starting with the haunting Nkyinkyim, a sculpture by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo at the entrance of the memorial. The site includes a memorial square with 800 6-foot-tall monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of victims are engraved on the columns.
Less than a mile away; the museum – full name, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration – provides what the website calls “a comprehensive history of the United States with a focus on the legacy of slavery.” It’s located near what was once one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in the United States. Exhibits explore “the economics of enslavement; the violence of slavery, sexual violence against enslaved Black women, the commodification of people, and the desperate efforts enslaved people made to stay connected to loved ones.”
Freedom Rides Museum
This museum tells the story of the Freedom Riders – more than 400 young men and women, Black and white, who boarded buses in Washington, D.C., and headed into the segregated South in the summer of 1961. Their aim: compel leaders there to comply with Supreme Court decisions banning segregation on buses and in transportation facilities. Located in a former Greyhound bus station where the riders were attacked by a white mob, the museum features imagery and audio, plus a restored vintage bus.
Black History Month: African American history and civil rights
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Located in the heart of a city that served as a civil rights battleground, this institute is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collection of important sites from the era. Visitors can experience a rendition of a segregated city in the 1950s, examine a replica of a Freedom Riders bus, and see the door from the cell where Martin Luther King Jr. penned his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”
Black History Month 2023: Why is Black History Month in February? How do you celebrate? Everything you need to know.
Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
This museum explores some of the most important moments in the struggle for equality, including the murder of Emmett Till, the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the murder of three civil rights workers during the Freedom Summer of 1964. A re-created jail cell and a tear gas canister from the integration of the University of Mississippi give a sense of the dangers that rights activists faced.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The newest Smithsonian museum on the National Mall in the capital opened in 2016 and celebrates African American history and culture with more than 40,000 artifacts. Recent exhibits cover such topics as changes in Black America since 1968, stories from writer James Baldwin’s home in southern France and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.
National Civil Rights Museum
The Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, houses the National Civil Rights Museum where the permanent exhibits cover watershed moments in the struggle for equality. The Freedom Riders exhibit displays a burned-out bus from an attack on riders in Anniston, Alabama. Giant panels chronicle the journey of the riders – and highlight the Kennedy administration’s reluctance to get involved. The personal stories of six Freedom Riders imprisoned at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm, are available.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park
This National Park Service site includes Monroe Elementary School, one of the segregated schools behind the famous 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared “separate but equal” public education to be unconstitutional. The site explores the court ruling and delves into the clashes that followed it.
International Civil Rights Center and Museum
Greensboro, North Carolina
Visitors can take a seat at the original Woolworth’s lunch counter where four Black college students refused to leave unless they were served. The sit-in continued for months until the store finally relented.
The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
New York City
This site in New York’s Washington Heights includes the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X, the leader associated with the Nation of Islam and the Black Power movement, was assassinated in 1965. The ballroom now features a mural depicting his life.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
This museum features replicas of historical and contemporary African American figures. It delves into African American history, ranging from the slave ships traversing the Middle Passage en route to the United States to inspiring stories of the Underground Railroad to more recent civil rights struggles.
Larry Bleiberg and Sheree R. Curry contributed to this story.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Black History Month 2023: These 10 museums celebrate culture, history