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 Black History Museums to get a better feel for a new destination. On my most recent 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 a few months ago, many museums and historic sites were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19. But even though most museums are closed, you can still visit some of them virtually.
If you’re interested in learning more about Black History and Culture in the United States, there is a bevy of Black History 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 of 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. This museum takes visitors on a trip through time starting with the Black Experience in America with its history Galleries that start from Slavery to Emancipation and then from Segregation to Today. There are also exhibits that focus on Black History in popular culture. You can explore more than 3,500 exhibits online.
- Archives of African American Music & Culture (Bloomington, IN)
The collections in the Archives of African American Music & Culture museum highlight African American music ranging from classical, religious, and popular music to include R&B and hip hop.
- The Museum of African American Art (Los Angeles, CA)
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, NY)
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, NY)
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, MO)
You can take a virtual tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and there’s a short movie introduction into the Negro League Baseball that 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 abolitionist, orator, writer, and former slave purchased this stunning 21-room Victorian mansion 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 of the life of some of the 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 Black employees.
- The Black Archives of Mid-America (Kansas City, MO)
The Black Archives of Mid-America there are two online exhibits available for viewing: 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, GA)
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, IL)
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 museum was the home of the largest caretaker of African American culture until the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field (Tuskegee, AL)
Take a virtual tour of the primary flight-training site for the Tuskeegee Airmen, Black pilots of World War II.
- U.S. National Archives [Exhibit: Black College Life in the New Deal] (Washington, DC)
This online exhibit features fascinating photos of Black Student’s lives on college campuses between January 1, 1933, and December 31, 1941.
Civil Rights Museums
You can find a complete list of all of the virtual tours and experiences offered by the United States Civil Rights Trail here.
- National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
The National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis, TN and serves as not only a memorial but also as a museum. The museum was built around the Lorraine Motel, which was where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968. The museum traces the Black civil rights movement. It is filled with so many gems to include: a replica of the Montgomery city bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and a garbage truck to commemorate the “I Am A Man Sanitation Workers Strike,” which is the strike that brought Dr. King to Memphis.
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. This museum 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
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum, located in Greensboro, North Carolina in the original Woolworth’s building. This museum’s mission is to commemorate the A&T Four and its role in launching the sit-in movement.
- Martin Luther King Birth Home
As part of the National Park Service, you can visit the Martin Luther King Birth Home and see where Dr. King spent the first 12 years of his life.
- Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a historically Black university located in Washington, DC. The Founders Library holds the largest collection of African American documents, letters, and oral histories about the Black experience. Several buildings on the campus of this institution have been designated as National Historic Landmarks.
- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 2017 covers the entire Civil Rights Movement but it provides more insight into the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers.
If you want to learn more about Black History, virtual tours of these famous museums are a great way to get started.
Which Black History or Civil Rights Museums are on your list? Please leave a comment below.