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African American Arts & Culture

Many museums and theaters in Washington, DC offer a taste of African American culture.


Washington, DC is a city infused with African American arts and culture, from its iconic landmarks and historical sites to its restaurants and retail. You won’t want to miss these important experiences:

See the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: Opened in August 2011, the civil rights leader takes a place of prominence next to Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington on the National Mall. The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. The memorial is the first to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color and was designed as a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy, forever serving as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood.

Discover the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership: The new museum expands upon the artifacts at the adjacent historic Ford’s Theatre. Learn about the Civil War-era president’s life, tragic death and lasting legacy. Several galleries trace the history of Lincoln’s presidency, while a gallery for temporary exhibits features contemporary information and artifacts related to the Civil War and civil rights movement.

Explore the citywide “Civil War to Civil Rights” – a four-year commemoration in honor of Washington, DC’s unique role in the Civil War and civil rights movement – which highlights the history-making contributions of DC’s African American citizens. The ongoing “Civil War to Civil Rights” commemoration brings together DC’s cultural attractions and historic landmarks in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The program includes a tour of Lincoln’s Cottage, a peek inside a Civil War-era spy’s life at the International Spy Museum and walking tours from Cultural Tourism DC.

Visit the U Street Corridor: Nicknamed “Black Broadway” for its ties to musical legends like Duke Ellington and Etta James and performance venues like the newly reopened Howard Theatre, Lincoln Theatre and Bohemian Caverns, this mecca of black culture and nightlife has experienced a recent rebirth.

Sightsee in the Obamas’ backyard: Destination DC has created a special, themed itinerary designed to help visitors experience DC like the Obama family. Available exclusively on washington.org, the itinerary highlights attractions the Obamas have visited as a family, restaurants where Barack and Michelle have had date nights and more.

Tour the campus of Howard University: One of the nation’s most acclaimed historic black colleges, visitors can experience history through visual art at the Howard University Gallery of Art, which houses one of the most comprehensive representations of black artists in the world.

Walk Cultural Tourism DC’s African American Heritage Trail: Learn about lesser-known sites of significance to DC’s black history. Consider the house in LeDroit Park where accomplished poet and writer Paul Lawrence Dunbar lived after his marriage to wife Alice in 1898, or The True Reformer Building on U Street, an architectural testament to black economic development. Completed in 1903, it was conceived, financed, designed, built and patronized by African Americans.

Catch a play at the African Continuum Theatre Company at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in the H Street Corridor. The theatre company is the only full-time, professional African American theatre company in Washington, DC. Since its opening, African Continuum has presented more than 35 plays, seven world premieres and numerous other works.

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