Top 10 Places to Learn About Black History in DC

There’s plenty to do during the month of February to learn more about the black history of DC!

There are memorials to visit, tours to take, museums to explore, all celebrating black history. This post covers things to do in Washington DC during Black History Month 2020 including a top 10 list, nighttime activities, family-friendly things to do, and free things. Read our master post on things to do in DC any time of year.

 

 

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TOP TEN THINGS TO DO DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN DC

DC is the perfect place to spend Black History Month. There are plenty of places to see and things to do to honor those of color who have made a difference in our nation’s history. 

While a lot of these can be enjoyed year-round, we also added special events that are available only during this month.

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

Be sure to look into purchasing a tourist discount pass for more ideas of things to do in DC for cheap. 

 

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1. Visit U Street 

U street is known as “Black Broadway”. It’s rich with black history and there are a number of ways to explore it!

Take a Walking Tour! We offer walking tours of U Street for groups. To book a tour, click here.

We also have a self-guided food and history tour, which includes stops like the historic Howard Theater, in front of which is a statue of jazz legend Duke Ellington. 

Each at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s Chili Bowl is rich in history. It survived the riots that took place all over after the assassination of MLK. Through all the hardships, it remains an important cultural icon and has several locations in DC, including U Street, H street, and even Nationals Park! It’s one of our Top 50 Things To Do in DC!

 

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2. Visit the African American History Museum

The African American History and Culture Museum is the newest Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. While it’s been open for a few years, it’s still very popular. Luckily, February is a great time to visit.

Since February is off-peak season, there is no ticket required to enter the museum on weekdays. That means you can just show up! If you’re coming on the weekend or have a group of 10 or more, you are still required to reserve tickets in advance. To learn more about this, click here

Inside the museum is a treasure trove of African American history. A new exhibit that opened at the end of 2019 is ‘We Return Fighting‘ which follows the African American experience in WW1.

 

 

Check out our guide to visiting the AAHM to get the most out of your experience!


3. See the MLK Memorial

A free thing to do to celebrate Black History Month in DC is to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Tidal Basin. This impressive memorial honors the Civil Rights Activist and is viewable both during the day and night.

MLK Memorial

It’s also a stop on our All in One walking tour! Our name-your-own-price tours are great for all budgets and all ages, so this is a great family-friendly activity to do. For more things to do with kids any time of the year, check out our master post.


4. Visit Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is the resting spot of our nation’s heroes. While you might have heard of the Kennedy Graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there is so much more to Arlington Cemetery! It’s over 620 acres and full of incredible history, including those of black heroes. Notable graves such as the famous boxer Joe Louis, the Tuskegee Airmen, and more are there to explore. Some of these are covered on our free Arlington Cemetery Walking tours.

 

 

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We also have a self-guided tour: Black History of Arlington National Cemetery. This is a great way to further your exploration of the cemetery.


5. Explore Shaw Neighborhood

North of the National Mall is the Shaw neighborhood, named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who during the American Civil War accepted command of the first all-black regiment in the Northeast. 

This area is where a lot of escaped enslaved persons settled and started businesses catering to the African American community. 

You can learn more about this neighborhood on our self guided audio U Street walking tour. including the childhood home of Duke Ellington, the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, and learn more about some of the first black owned businesses in the city.

For Black History Month, explore Shaw and support local businesses. Try the great dining experiences and immerse yourself in the uniqueness that is the Shaw neighborhood. 

Some of our favorite black-owned eateries in the neighborhood to eat at all times are:

  • Ben’s Chili Bowl
  • Florida Avenue Grille
  • Oohs and Ahhs
  • Dukem Ethiopian
  • Calabash Tea and Tonic

6. Visit the Frederick Douglass House

This might be the first time you’re hearing of this place, but the Frederick Douglas House is an incredible museum in the home of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglas. He lived there from 1877 until his death in 1895 and is a National Historic Site located in Anacostia.

The home is free to visit and has guided tours running throughout the day. 

 

 


7. See the Rosa Parks Exhibit

The beautiful Library of Congress has an incredible exhibition in their Jefferson Library dedicated to Rosa Parks, civil rights activist. 

This exhibit displays rarely seen documents and showcases her life and activism, letting viewers learn more about this activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

For a preview of the exhibit before you go, click here

You can visit the Library of Congress on our Capitol Hill Tour


8. See Where MLK Delivered ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Inscribed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is the dedication to where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech after his March on Washington in 1963. Stand where history was made and take in the view of Washington, DC. 

 

 

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We’ll tell you exactly where to find the inscription on our National Mall walking tour and go into detail about the president who ended slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. 


9. Visit the Obama Portraits

Inside the National Portrait Gallery is an exhibit of all the US Presidents. It’s the most extensive collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House, and of course includes the Obamas!

While Obama is in the presidential hall, you can find Michelle’s portrait in the South Gallery. It’s a great way to pay homage to our first African American president!


10. See African Art

The African Art Museum is a free Smithsonian Museum located on the National Mall and is completely dedicated to African Art. Current exhibits include I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa, Currents: Water in African Art, and Heroes: Principles of African Greatness.

On February 29 there will be a special Film & Discussion of ‘The Reunion of Flags’ that you won’t want to miss. This film captures the shared history of Eritrea and Ethiopia and explores their two-decades-long conflict. 

Be sure to check out our DC museum guide!


Learn About the Enslaved Persons of Mt Vernon

Like a lot of our Founding Fathers, our first president George Washington enslaved people on his plantation. You can visit Mount Vernon and learn about them. Mount Vernon is located in Alexandria, Virginia, but it is easy to get there by car or metro.

 

 

Mount Vernon offers an ‘Enslaved People of Mount Vernon’ specialty tour and you can reserve tickets for those here.  You can also visit the enslaved persons’ memorial located near George Washington’s tomb.


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