You are here
DC Itinerary: African American History & Heritage
- Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the first national memorial to honor a man of color
- Take a self-guided tour of the U Street neighborhood's heritage trail
- Catch a thought-provoking theater performance or jam to a live jazz session
Start your day at DC's newest memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Opened in summer 2011, the memorial was designed as a lasting tribute to Dr. King's legacy and will forever serve as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood. It is the first federal memorial to honor a man of color and a non-president. Next, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where an engraving memorializes the exact place where Dr. King stood on the steps when delivering his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.
While you're on the National Mall, check out the progress on construction of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open in 2015. A temporary gallery for the museum is housed at the National Museum of American History.
Take a break at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, where Dr. King finished his "I Have a Dream" speech. Landmark events in the hotel's history are chronicled in its history gallery.
Walk to The White House for a photo in front of the country's most famous house. Public tours are available through your member of Congress. Tours must be scheduled at least six weeks in advance. The self-guided tours feature the East Wing; on rare occassions guests have been greeted by Michelle Obama. Be sure and stop by The White House Visitor Center, which chronicles the history of "the People's House."
In the evening, head to The Howard Theatre, the newly revitalized venue that once launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and many others. Older than the Apollo Theatre in New York, The Howard Theatre recently went through a multimillion-dollar renovation to restore it to its former glory.
Begin with a visit to the Metropolitan AME Church. Built by black artisans in 1886, it's the oldest continuously black-owned property in downtown Washington. Tour the Mary McLeod Bethune House at Logan Circle.
Make a stop at the African American Civil War Memorial inscribed with the names of more than 209,000 African American soldiers and their white officers. Then visit the nearby African American Civil War Museum, which tells the story of the United States Colored Troops and African American involvement in the American Civil War.
Continue on foot or in a cab to U Street, known between the 1920s and the 1950s as Washington's "Black Broadway." Stop for a tasty lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl, a DC landmark since 1958, then follow a self-guided neighborhood heritage trail. Be sure to visit the historic Lincoln Theatre, built in 1921, which hosted performances by many great talents, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Cab Calloway to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Pearl Bailey. The theater reopened in 1994 after being beautifully renovated and now serves as a performing arts center.
Howard University is one Metro stop away. Tour the campus of one of the nation's most acclaimed historically black colleges. Visit the Howard University Gallery of Art, which houses one of the most comprehensive representations of black artists in the world.
Head to Georgetown for an evening at Blues Alley, the world's longest-running jazz supper club. Or sample savory North African cuisine at one of the Ethiopian eateries located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Start your morning back on the National Mall. The National Museum of African Art is the only U.S. museum devoted solely to the collection, study and exhibition of traditional arts of sub-Saharan Africa. The National Air and Space Museum pays tribute to African Americans achievements with its permanent exhibition, Black Wings: The American Black in Aviation.
Head to the Southwest Waterfront for lunch at the Maine Avenue Fish Market.
Continue your sightseeing in Anacostia, the city's first planned suburb. Visit Cedar Hill, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. A film in the visitor center documents the life of this famous abolitionist. Your next stop is the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum, which provides an in-depth look at African American history and culture.
DC's Downtown/Penn Quarter/Chinatown neighborhood is home to a number of hip, trendy nightclubs and restaurants. Or catch a provocative theatrical performance by the African Continuum Theatre Company at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.