African-American history is a travel topic about the history of American people of African descent.
The Atlantic Slave Trade that existed from the 1500s to the 1800s resulted in many Africans being taken from Africa and being brought to the Americas as slaves. Some of the slaves were taken to the Southern portion of the United States of America and slavery continued there until the American Civil War of the 1860s, after which slavery except as a punishment for a crime was outlawed throughout the United States. During the entire period of chattel slavery in the U.S., there were also a smaller number of free black citizens, and some of them played very important roles in U.S. history, including Crispus Attucks, who as the first victim of the Boston Massacre can be thought of as the first casualty of the Revolutionary War that brought the U.S. into being.
However, after the end of post-Civil War Reconstruction, various states, especially in the South, instituted segregation and Jim Crow laws, effectively denying black citizens the right to vote and largely separating blacks and whites in any situation where they might otherwise be treated equally until the 1950s and 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement gathered steam again.
In spite of the discrimination they have faced since the 17th century, African-Americans have made tremendous contributions in every field. To take one example, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what American music might sound like without the inventiveness, excellence and unique heritage of African-American musicians. To take another, it probably is impossible to imagine what Southern cuisine would be like without the creativity of African-American cooks.
- Tuskegee Institute. (updated Oct 2018)
- Manhattan/Harlem and Upper Manhattan, New York City. In the 1920s, Harlem witnessed a renaissance in African-American culture, arts, literature and social awareness, spurred by the Great Migration from the southern states to the West, Midwest and in this case, the Northeast. Jazz was also part of the Harlem Renaissance. Duke Ellington’s orchestra played at the segregated Cotton Club on 142nd St. and Lenox Ave. and became the first ensemble to be broadcast live on a nationwide radio hookup, starting in 1927. The Cotton Club no longer exists, but another famous venue is still very much alive and kicking: the famous Apollo Theater, on 125th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (usually still called 7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (usually still called 8th Ave.). Countless African-American musical stars made their start at Amateur Night at the Apollo, a tradition that endures to this day. (updated Oct 2018)
- Chicago. The South Side of Chicago was once home to Black Metropolis, an economically thriving area with many black-owned businesses. Sadly, the advent of redlining and blockbusting in the postwar years led to the decline of the area, and these days, the South Side has a partly-deserved reputation for high violent crime rates. That said, don’t write off a visit to the area entirely, as there are strong upper and middle class black neighbourhoods that are perfectly safe to visit, and Bronzeville, the historical heart of the Black Metropolis, is quickly gentrifying due to the influx of upwardly-mobile black millennials. Due to the legacy of the Great Migration, the South Side is also known as one of the best places in Chicago for soul food. Jackson Park will eventually be home to the Barack Obama Presidential Center, which will house exhibits about the presidency of Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president. (updated Oct 2018)
- New Orleans. One of the main ports in North America, New Orleans was a major locus of both the slave trade and communities of free blacks and mixed-race Creoles in the 19th century. “The Big Easy”, as it is called, was also the birthplace of the quintessential African-American music genre of jazz. (updated Oct 2018)
- Tulsa, Oklahoma. The black district of Greenwood, then called “the Negro Wall Street”, was home to a prosperous and influential community of African-Americans until 1921, when white mobs devastated the neighborhood in the notorious Tulsa Race Riot. Today, Greenwood has a cultural center that promotes the neighborhood’s history, and John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park contains statues memorializing the victims of the riot. (updated Oct 2018)
- Los Angeles. Site of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, which erupted when footage of Rodney King being arrested and beaten by the police emerged. The riots would spark off a nationwide conversation about police brutality. The seaside suburb of Santa Monica is home to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, where the award ceremony of the 36th Academy Awards were held in 1964, during which Sidney Poitier became the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor. The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, is the current home of the Oscars, and saw Halle Berry become the first African-American woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002. (updated Oct 2018)
- Washington D.C.. Home to many sites that are significant to African-American history. The National Mall is home to the Lincoln Memorial, where African-American opera singer Marian Anderson sang for a crowd of some 75,000 people in 1939 after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to perform a scheduled concert at Constitution Hall, which they helped manage, on account of her color. In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech there to 250,000 supporters as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Ford’s Theatre in the East End is the site where anti-slavery president Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Also home to Howard University, perhaps the best known of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), though these days, while its student body is still predominantly black, it is no longer segregated and admits students of all skin colours. DC was also the first major city to become majority African American and these days is among the first to lose its historic African-American majority due to gentrification. (updated Oct 2018)
- Memphis. Famous as a historical center of blues music, it also played a prominent role in the civil rights struggle. The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying in 1968 when he stood with unionized garbage collectors while they struck, seeking safer working conditions and an end to racial discrimination. Dr. King was assassinated at the motel, which has since been converted to the National Civil Rights museum. (updated Oct 2018)
- Omaha. Birthplace of Civil Rights leader Malcolm X. Although his house of birth no longer stands, the site it used to stand on is now a National Historic Site and marked by a plaque. (updated Oct 2018)
- Gary, Indiana. Birthplace of Michael Jackson, who first rose to prominence at the age of 11 as the youngest member and lead singer of the Jackson 5, which also comprised of his four older brothers. Jackson was an exceptionally talented artiste who was able compose and write his own hit songs in addition to singing them, and was also an excellent choreographer in addition to being an exceptional dancer in his own right, eventually making him one of the top selling pop artistes of all time by the 1980s-1990s. His birth house still stands, and while not open to the public, can be viewed and photographed from the outside. (updated Oct 2018)