Every February, we honor the struggles endured by African American artists, innovators, and civil rights leaders, while also celebrating their many accomplishments and contributions to the US. We’ve shared the books to read all month long, but nothing beats interacting with history in person. Today we’re sharing our favorite museums to visit and learn about black history — not just in February, but all year ’round.
1. National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC: Passes to the newest Smithsonian museum are harder to get than Bieber tickets — seriously — but once you visit, you’ll see why. Not only are the museum exhibitions incredible, but every snack from their Sweet Home Cafe will have you begging for seconds. Plan your trip early, and plan to spend the whole day here. You’ll want to soak in every second.
2. Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA: Jacob Lawrence’s beautiful and touching series, “The Great Migration,” features paintings of African Americans journeying from the rural South to big cities in the North. Normally the series is split in two, between DC’s The Phillips Collection and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but for the first time in 20 years, the Seattle Art Museum is reuniting the paintings. You won’t want to miss it.
3. Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA: In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panthers’ founding, the Oakland Museum of California commissioned “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50.” This powerful collection of the Black Panthers’ social contributions and activist legacy will change the way you think about a community organizing. (Photo via Oakland Museum of California)
4. American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, MO: This family-friendly museum will basically turn your kids into jazz musicians, thanks to free programs like “Jazz Storytelling” and exhibits featuring Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Don’t be surprised if there’s a saxophone in your future. (Photo via Getty)
5. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Detroit, MI: Offering a mix of everything — art, history, music, and more — this museum will keep you and your little ones fully occupied. Don’t miss the “I See Me: Reflections in Black Dolls” exhibit, featuring iconic black dolls throughout the ages. (Photo via Raymond Boyd/Getty)
6. African American Museum in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA: Come here to understand what the fight for civil rights really looked like. Thanks to the museum’s Jack T. Collection, you’ll be able to see hundreds of photos from strikes, rallies, marches, and more, all over the US. The images are unforgettable. (Photo via Paul Marotta/Getty)
7. August Wilson Center, Pittsburgh, PA: If you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated film Fences, then you know how incredible August Wilson’s work is. The August Wilson Center honors the playwright’s contributions to the arts with art exhibits and theater performances year ’round. (Photo via Raymond Boyd/Getty)
8. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN: It’s hard for history to feel more real than this. Built in the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, this museum offers oral histories, photographs, and more, all to educate visitors on the civil rights movement and inspire future civil rights defenders. (Photo via Raymond Boyd/Getty)
9. National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Baltimore, MD: While you might be more familiar with Madame Tussaud’s wax creations, sometimes it’s fun to ditch celebrity facts for historical figures. In between munching on crab cakes and dousing your fries in Old Bay, stop by the first wax museum of African-American history. (Photo via Jim Watson/Getty)
What’s the next museum on your list to visit? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!