In the Northeast, you don’t have to go that far before you run into history. And the Northeast is full of historic sites that celebrate Black stories and culture. At time of writing, many of these sites might be closed due to COVID-19, but they’re great stops to add to a future road trip.
The current Amistad, which sails up and down the Long Island Sound between New Haven, Bridgeport and New London, is a replica of the original Spanish schooner La Amistad where the 1839 uprising took place. In the winter months, you can find it docked on the wharf at the Mystic Seaport Museum. The floating classroom outlines the slave rebellion, the landmark Supreme Court case that followed and the history of the civil rights movement from 1841 to the present. While you’re in the area, you can check out other sites that played a role in the case, like the Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House, the First Church of Christ and the New Haven Green. There’s also an Amistad memorial in New Haven, which depicts uprising leader Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinque) and honors the brave African people who took part in the rebellion.
After spending about a decade in Ontario, Canada, former slave turned American abolitionist Harriet Tubman moved back to the U.S. and settled in Auburn, N.Y., with her family. The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park consists of Harriet Tubman’s home, the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center, the Tubman Home for the Aged and the Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The Tubman Home for the Aged was a home for elderly African Americans that Tubman herself opened, and where she lived from 1911 until her death in 1913. The Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was the church she attended while living in Auburn. While you’re in Auburn you can also visit the Fort Hill Cemetery, where Tubman is buried, and pay your respects.
The Museum of African American History, which has locations in Boston and Nantucket, is New England’s largest museum dedicated to the history, culture and contributions of African Americans. Here, you can discover over 3,000 historic objects, including rare photographs, prints, artifacts and so much more. After your visit, consider a stroll through historic buildings on the museum’s Boston Black Heritage Trail. The trail is a walking tour of pre-Civil War sites important to Beacon Hill’s free African American community. On this free guided or self-guided walking tour, you can visit sites like the Charles Street Meeting House, the George Middleton House, the Abiel Smith School and more.
Author and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois’s familial and childhood home is memorialized at the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site in Great Barrington, Mass. Though the home is no longer standing, the 5-acre site offers a self-guided interpretive trail, a commemorative boulder and the original foundations of the house. You can also take the self-guided Great Barrington Walking Tour, which identifies sites around Great Barrington that were important or influential to W.E.B. Du Bois.
Visit more sites important to civil rights movement on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.
Founded in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia was the first museum built by a major U.S. city dedicated to the life and work of African Americans. The museum tracks the art, culture and history of African Americans from the pre-Colonial era to the present day. The exhibits are constantly being rotated and updated, so it’s a great museum for multiple visits. The museum focuses both on local history and the wider scope of the Black experience in America.
New York is full of sites that played important roles in the Underground Railroad. The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is located near the former International Suspension Bridge, a route used by many on the Underground Railroad who sought freedom in Canada. The Heritage Center tells the story of these freedom seekers, as well as free African American residents, abolitionists and others who helped them along the way. For many, this represented the last leg of the journey, the last river to cross before they were free. At the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, their stories live on.
Have you ever been to one of these historic sites? Is there any that we forgot to mention on our list? Let us know in the comments below!