Looking to explore African American History Museums from home? The Black experience is so vast and varied there is no end to what can be learned about it. This is why when I travel, I try to visit local African American History Museums to get a better feel for a new destination. On a trip to Georgia, my family and I visited the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and learned first-hand what it was like for the museum’s curator, Mr. Hadley, to grow up on a plantation.
Since our trip, many museums and historic sites were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19. Even though a number of museums are closed, you can still visit some of them virtually. If you’re interested in learning more about African American history and culture in the United States, there’s a bevy of museums and resources that are available online.
Google Arts & Culture and the United States Civil Rights Trail provide virtual tours, exhibits, and access to online archives that you can explore from home.
Here are some African American History and Civil Rights Museums that you can explore from home:
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MUSEUMS
You can find a complete list of all the virtual tours offered by Google Arts & Culture here.
- Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, DC)
Since opening in 2016, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has become one of the most popular museums in Washington, DC. Visitors are educated about the Black experience by going on a trip through time. The journey starts in Africa with its history galleries that span from Slavery to Emancipation and then from Segregation to Today. More than 3,500 exhibits are available online.
- Archives of African American Music & Culture (Bloomington, Indiana)
The collections in the Archives of African American Music & Culture museum highlight African American music ranging from classical, and religious, to popular music including R&B and Hip Hop.
- The Museum of African American Art (Los Angeles, California)
The Museum of African American Art interprets, promotes, and preserves art by or about people of African descent. It was founded in 1976 to increase public awareness of African American Art.
- The Gordon Parks Foundation (Pleasantville, New York)
You can take a trip through time with the life work of famed African American photographer, Gordon Parks. The Gordon Parks Foundation showcases Parks’s career, which spans from the 1940s up until his death in 2006. Parks’ photographs focused on race relations, Civil Rights, and urban life.
- Dance Theater of Harlem (New York, New York)
The Dance Theater of Harlem is the first Black classical ballet company and the first major ballet company to prioritize Black dancers. This school was founded more than 50 years ago. There are four online exhibits about the history of this world-famous dance company.
- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (Kansas City, Missouri)
Watch a short film that provides an introduction to the Negro League Baseball League through the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum virtual tour. The film includes interviews with former Negro League players.
- Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Washington, DC)
Take a virtual tour of Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass’s Historic home in Washington, DC. Douglass, an ambassador, abolitionist, writer, and former slave purchased this stunning 21-room Victorian mansion in 1878. There are a number of rooms filled with artifacts that are viewable in the online tour.
- The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) – University Libraries [Online Exhibit: African Americans at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1892-1971] (Greensboro, NC)
The UNCG’s online exhibit offers a riveting look inside the lives of some African American employees who worked on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This exhibit features not only photos of the Black workers in the late 1800s but there are artifacts listing how much the University paid some of its African American employees.
- The Black Archives of Mid-America (Kansas City, Missouri)
The Black Archives of Mid-America offers two online exhibits: one about famous dancer Alvin Ailey; and the other about the Historic 18th and Vine Jazz District in Kansas City.
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) (Atlanta, Georgia)
The King Center is part of the memorial and childhood home of Dr. King. This online exhibit contains various letters and miscellaneous documents and artifacts.
- DuSable Museum of African American History (Chicago, Illinois)
Created in 1961, the DuSable Museum of African American History is one of the oldest museums of African American history. Originally started as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art, this institute was the largest caretaker of African American culture until the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened.
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field (Tuskegee, Alabama)
Take a virtual tour of the primary flight-training site for the Tuskeegee Airmen, the famed African American pilots of World War II.
CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUMS
You can find a complete list of all the virtual tours and experiences offered by the United States Civil Rights Trail here.
- National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel (Memphis, Tennessee)
The National Civil Rights Museum was built around the Lorraine Motel, the location where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968. The museum which traces the Civil Rights Movement in America is filled with some great gems. My favorite exhibits included: a replica of a Montgomery city bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white passenger and a garbage truck to commemorate the “I Am A Man Sanitation Workers Strike.” This strike, which Dr. King helped organize, was for the improvement of working conditions for Memphis sanitation workers.
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta, Georgia)
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a multicultural center, and it highlights the Civil Rights Movement and the modern human rights movement. The museum has a Voice of the Voiceless gallery, which showcases the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection.
- International Civil Rights Center & Museum (Greensboro, North Carolina)
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is located in the original Woolworth’s building where the four North Carolina A&T State University students (also known as the Greensboro Four) staged a sit-in to challenge the “Whites Only” lunch counter. This museum commemorates the Greensboro Four’s role in launching the sit-in movement.
- Martin Luther King Birth Home
The Martin Luther King Birth Home is the childhood home of Dr. King. This museum which is part of the National Park Service, allows you to see where Dr. King spent the first 12 years of his life.
- Howard University
Howard University is a historically Black university located in Washington, DC. The university, which was founded in 1867, is one of the premier Black institutions for higher learning in the country. Take a 3D virtual tour of the university which is home to several buildings that have been designated as National Historic Landmarks.
- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 2017 is dedicated to educating visitors about the Civil Rights Movement. It also provides more insight into the murders of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old teen that was visiting the state when he was brutally murdered, and Civil Rights Leader, Medgar Evers who was assassinated in front of his Mississippi home.
Updated February 1, 2021
If you want to learn more about Black History, in addition to virtual tours Black History documentaries also provide some insight into the Black experience in America. For more Black History inspiration follow us on Instagram.
Which Black History or Civil Rights Museums are on your list? Please leave a comment below.