As you start thinking about where to go this summer, consider adding Black history to the itinerary. Take a journey with a guided tour that teaches and entertains.
While self-guided tours allow you to go at your own pace, you can’t beat having a passionate tour guide who knows the history backwards and forwards, like they lived it. That insight is priceless and ups the experience twofold. Here are a few tours to keep top-of-mind.
Memphis Caravan Tour, Memphis, Tennessee
A Tour of Possibilities offers this guided 2.5-hour of African American history that you enjoy from the comfort of your own car. You hear the guide’s commentary through your car speakers by accessing the link provided upon arrival. The exploration includes sites such as the Slave Haven, (you descend the stairs into the dark, damp cellar and peer through the trapdoors and hidden passages where the fugitives were harbored, you get a glimpse of those turbulent times), the National Civil Rights Museum/Lorraine Motel, (where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated), Beale Street, nicknamed the Home of the Blues, and neighborhoods like Soulsville, South Memphis, Uptown, as well as the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the I Am a Man Plaza and plenty more. Learn more at: https://www.atopmemphis.com/.
Charleston’s African American History and Heritage, Charleston, South Carolina
West Africa’s contribution to the heritage and history of the Lowcountry is indisputable. Bulldog Tours explores the influence and experience of African Americans in Charleston from slavery, Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights struggle. Highlights of the two-hour walking tour include significant sites such as the Aiken Rhett House, Mother Emanuel AME Church, and the Philip Simmons Prayer Garden. Simmons was one of the most celebrated ironworkers in Charleston of the 20th century. He made more than 500 decorative pieces of ornamental wrought iron gates, fences, balconies, and window grills that dot that Charleston landscape. Get information here: www.bulldogtours.com.
The Black Journey: African American History Walking Tour, Philadelphia, PA
This 90-minute tour begins in front of the Independence Visitor Center and continues across the city at some of the nation’s most important and historical sites such as The President’s House, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, First U.S. Supreme Court Building, American Philosophical Society Museum, Independence Square, Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier and Bicentennial Moon Tree, the former location of the Philadelphia Prison Site and the oldest continuous piece of land owned by people of African descent. You’ll go to Congo Square, visit the unmarked graves of free and enslaved victims of the yellow fever epidemic and see where the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1793. Walk in the footsteps of enslaved people, abolitionists, slaveholders and founding fathers. Learn more at: https://blackjourneyphiladelphia.com/.
The James Brown Family Historical Tour, Augusta, Georgia
Get on the good foot. The Godfather of Soul has a special place in Black history. Nobody sang and danced quite like him. Cherish the memories with a private, guided tour of his favorite haunts on a nearly two-hour tour. You’ll visit his childhood home, spots where he hung out, restaurants, his elementary school and more. Tours can be set via the James Brown Family Foundation, www.jbtour.jamesbrownfamilyfdn.org.
Birding the Harriet Tubman Byway, Bucktown, Maryland
Start your four-hour adventure at the Brodess Farm Site in Bucktown. The guided drive and hike is for bird lovers. Harriet Tubman Tours and Delmarva Birding Weekends sponsor this adventure that goes along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Dorchester County, Maryland. You’ll learn about Tubman as you make your way through the farms and Chesapeake Bay marshes and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge encountering some of the best birding and bald eagle watching. For more information, go to:
The Real Black Wall Street Tour, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Despite the gravity of the Tulsa Race Massacre, until the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre this year, little was known about it. This tour will give you an education that might be painful but insightful. Explore the historic Tulsa district of Greenwood. You’ll hear the details about the people and buildings that were affected by the massacre, the places that were bombed, including churches and schools. Warning, you might need a hanky. You’ll go through some of the neighborhoods that were leveled. You can get more information at: https://www.facebook.com/therealblackwallstreettour/.
Gullah Tour, Sandy Island, South Carolina
Just south of Murrells Inlet is Sandy Island, where many of the 120 residents are Gullah Geechee descendants, the culture that originated from West African slaves who worked on the rice plantations in the 1700s. Start the two-hour at the Sandy Island Boat Ramp and take a brief boat ride to Pyatt’s General Store with its African heritage gifts, Gullah Sweetgrass baskets and more. Then you’ll board a passenger van and make your way around the island to the Sandy Island firehouse, old gravesites, church, community center, library, and more. The 9,000+ acre island is one of the largest undeveloped freshwater islands on the East Coast. The tour operator is an island resident and descendant of the original founders. Learn more here: https://toursdesandyisland.com/.
Freedom Seekers Heritage Tour, Niagara County, New York
The Niagara River and Gorge was an important crossing point into Canada for those using the Underground Railroad. For the freedom seekers who passed through the Niagara Frontier, the physical act of crossing the Niagara River represented the final act of courage and determination at the end of a long journey. Motherland Connextions’ tour takes you to key towns and sites. Over three hours you’ll visit the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center with its exhibits, scenic built environment, nearby murals of Harriet Tubman and Freedom Seekers and more. In Lewiston, there’s the Freedom Crossing Monument on the bank of the Niagara River. The statute honors the courage of freedom seekers who sought a new life in Canada, and those who protected and helped them on their journey across the Niagara River. Murphy Orchards in Burt is a farm that secretly housed enslaved people on the run in its barn. Another place of refuge is the many canals. You’ll see the Erie Canal in Lockport. Get information at: https://www.motherlandconnextions.com/tours.html.
Duke Street Black History Walking Tour, Alexandria, Virginia
This 90-minute guided walking tour along the Duke Street corridor in Old Town Alexandria includes sites connected to the early Alexandria slave trade, such the former site of Franklin & Armfield, and the former Bruin Slave Jail that held the Edmonson sisters as well as sites that connect to early African American’s spirituality like the Shiloh Baptist Church and the Alexandria National Cemetery. You might want to check their other tours too. Freedom’s Fight in Alexandria Walking Tour highlights pre-Civil War history and the stories of runaway slaves, early abolitionists and more. The Still’s Underground Railroad Walking Tour takes you along the downtown King Street corridor and you hear about the Underground Railroad in Alexandria. The Black History in Alexandria Bus tour is a two-hour guided tour that will take you to the Freedom House Museum, Alfred Street Baptist Church, the site of the 1939 Library Sit-In, Contraband & Freedman Cemetery and more. For more information on Manumission Tours, go to: https://www.manumissiontours.com/.