East Coast Museums for African American History

History & Heritage, Magazine Features

We highlight museums across the East Coast that offer immersive experiences into the rich tapestry of African American history and culture

By Stephanie Stott

Looking to expand your knowledge of African American icons or celebrate the successes of the community? From Washington, D.C. to New York City, we’ve highlighted these museums across the East Coast that dive deep into African American culture.

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian Institution is a Mecca for most history buffs. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is no exception. Spread over six floors, the exhibits are as sobering as they are transformative. The Cultural Expressions exhibit explores aspects like the power of artistry and dance, while Changing America traces the end of the Civil Rights era to current day movements like Black Lives Matter. Tickets are free, and on an as-come, as-reserve basis on their website

Visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture Website.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad

The Tubman Byway and Path Toward Freedom 

With Harriet Tubman’s efforts, the Underground Railroad delivered enslaved people to better livelihoods and opportunities. As you make your way down the Tubman Byway in Maryland, you’ll trace their path. From Maryland to Pennsylvania, this driving trail highlights 45 notable stops along the way. The trail begins at Long Wharf Park, where men, women, and children were sold into slavery. The Tubman visitor center sheds more light on the struggle Tubman and other enslaved people faced, including the intricacies of the Underground movement.

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Baltimore’s The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

Stand with those who fought for freedom at The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore. What started as a small assortment in 1980 has transformed into a detailed collection of icons, like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and other notable figures that grace the museum floor. The struggles and triumphs are captured from ancient Africa to modern day, from a detailed depiction of the slave trade to President Barrack Obama’s historic election. The museum is in the process of expanding and will soon stretch a whole block. Visitors are still welcome and encouraged during this process.

Get More Group Information on The Great Blacks in Wax Website

Frederick Douglass House

Frederick Douglass House

Words that Empower in Cedar Hill

Frederick Douglass devoted his life to the pursuit of freedom and equal treatment for all. After teaching himself to read and write, he escaped from slavery and gained fame as a gifted orator and author. His home, located in Washington, DC, is a National historic landmark. Cedar Hill contains Douglass’s library, where he penned his autobiography, a parlor, where he entertained guests, and other carefully preserved rooms.

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New York’s Jackie Robinson Museum

Whether you are an avid sports fan or casual watcher, you’ve heard his name. The Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City chronicles the life of this legendary man. View timepoints in Robinson’s life through up-close artifacts, from Dodgers jackets and bats to autographed playing cards. Read letters from eager fans over the years, and explore the impact made not just on the sports industry but through Robinson’s humanitarian efforts through the NAACP. The museum is compact but informative, with most self-guided tours taking under two hours to complete.

Learn More About the Jackie Robinson Museum

Louis Armstrong House

Louis Armstrong House

The Louis Armstrong House Museum in NY

The Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York City is a must-see for music-lovers and those curious about the man behind that trumpet. In fact, Armstrong’s gold-plated trumpet is on display in “Satchmo’s Stuff.” As you stroll inside Armstrong’s abode, you’ll find 86 scrapbooks, 650 tapes, 5,000 photographs, and other snapshots sure to give you a better understanding of the life of this legend. Guided tours last around an hour and include access to the permanent exhibition “Here to Stay,” which includes in-depth looks at Armstrong artifacts. Those tickets start at $20, though you can purchase just an exhibition visit if desired.

Get More Information About the Louis Armstrong House Museum

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