Virginia is home to the longest continuous experience of African-American culture and life in the United States.
African-American history in Virginia dates back to August 1619 when the first Africans were involuntarily brought to the shores of Historic Jamestowne.
The proud, rich heritage and struggle of the black experience in Virginia is something that visitors to Virginia can relive through sites, artifacts, events and museums across the state.
Coastal Virginia - Hampton Roads
Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg
Begin your journey at Jamestown Settlement, where the gallery gives visitors a chance to see and hear the story of the first Africans who arrived in the new country.
Then, follow the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg. During February, special events are planned in recognition of Black History Month.
Farther east in Newport News, tour The Newsome House Museum, which commemorates J. Thomas Newsome, one of the first African-American lawyers to argue before the Virginia Supreme Court. Learn about the heroics of African-American soldiers at the Virginia War Museum, and talk with a bucket maker about life as a freed black in colonial times at the Mariners' Museum.
A short drive east to Hampton takes you to Hampton University, founded in 1868 and one of the earliest established educational institutions for blacks in the USA. While on campus, visit the Emancipation Oak, believed to be the place where President Abraham Lincoln's famous proclamation was first read to Hampton slaves.
Enjoy an impressive collection of African and African-American fine art and artifacts at the Hampton University Museum, one of the oldest African-American museums in the country.
In the sanctuary of Hampton's Little England Chapel, the only known African-American missionary chapel in the state, see a short video and collection of photographs and materials that help explain the religious lives of post-Civil War blacks.
Nearby, the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe tells the story of "Freedom's Fort," the refuge for thousands of runaway slaves during the Civil War.
To learn about the first black U.S. aviators, visit the Virginia Air & Space Center end enjoy the photographic exhibit of Tuskegee Airmen.
In nearby Norfolk, visit West Point Cemetery to view the Black Soldiers Memorial, honoring Union veterans of the Civil War. At nearby Norfolk State University, the largest predominately black university in the nation, enjoy a display of slavery memorabilia at the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library.
In Portsmouth, take a walking tour past the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, furnished with benches hand cared by slaves. Stop by the Portsmouth Colored Community Library Museum. Here you can find memorabilia, photographs, books and journals of Portsmouth's African American heritage.
While in Chesapeake, Stop by the only visitor center in Virginia with an Afro-Union and Afro-Virginian repository theme, the J. J. Moore Visitor, Archives & Family Life Center.
Richmond - The Birthplace of Black Capitalism
Richmond, trace the slave trade from Africa to Virginia and onward throughout the United States until 1860, take a walk along the Richmond Slave Trail.
The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar is the gateway to Civil War travel in the region. A National Historic Landmark and one-time heart of Confederate war production, the site offers an interactive exploration of the Civil War on both the local and national levels through the perspectives of Union, Confederate, and African American participants.
For special exhibits on African-American life during the Civil War, visit the ACWM - Museum of the Confederacy.
Discover one of the country's foremost African-American communities, Jackson Ward, known as "The Harlem of the South." While there, visit the Home of Maggie Walker, the first female bank president in America and see a newly unveiled bronze statue of Walker.. Also, visit the Black History Museum and Cultural Center.
The nearby Bill "Bojangles" Robinson statue recognizes the dancer best known for his tap dancing with child-star Shirley Temple.
A popular addition to Monument Avenue, considered to be one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world, is the statue of tennis star Arthur Ashe.
To view African art, travel to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Center at Virginia Union University. Wilder was the first elected African-American governor and currently serves as Richmond's mayor.
Farmville is the home of the Robert Russa Moton Museum, where a student strike in 1951 spurred the lawsuit of Brown v. The Board of Education case in 1954, a hallmark in the civil rights movement. Before you head that way, see the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square in Richmond. It was erected in 2008 to honor the actions of 16 year-old Barbara Rose Johns of Robert Russa Moton High School.
To the south in Petersburg, the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Memorial commemorates independent Liberia's first president. Travel through The Triangle, Petersburg's African-American business center for more than a century.
Gillfield Baptist Church, with what is believed to be the oldest handwritten black church record book in America, opens its archives to interested visitors.
Listen and learn from costumed interpreters at the Petersburg National Battlefield and Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier about the slaves during the Civil War. Also, take a look at Pocahontas Island in the Appomattox River, a free African-American community in 1800.
About an hour's drive to Lynchburg, tour the House and Gardens of Anne Spencer, the noted Harlem Renaissance poet and civil rights activist. Don't miss the special exhibits highlighting African-American involvement in the city's history at the Legacy Museum of African American History or the opportunity to take a Black History Walking Tour of the Old City Cemetery.
Learn about slave life at Monticello, Jefferson's home, along Mulberry Row. See Monticello through the lens of the Hemings Family, the best documented enslaved family in the United States, through special guided tours and the new exhibit, The Life of Sally Hemings. Nearby, at James Monroe's home, Highland, tour the restored slave quarters, and discover Monroe's views on slavery and his involvement in the establishment of Liberia 1817.
James Madison's home in Orange, Montpelier, is the site for archeological digs, primarily around the original home of Mount Pleasant, which was built by slaves in 1723. The slaves also cleared and cultivated the fields. Montpelier honors the lives of the enslaved through ongoing slavery interpretation and a new groundbreaking exhibition, The Mere Distinction of Colour.
Fredericksburg and Mount Vernon
Then, visit Historic Kenmore Plantation, the home of George Washington's sister, for a glimpse of African-American life at the house.
At George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens, tour the Greenhouse slave quarters and the slave burial ground. Through household furnishings, art works, archaeological discoveries, documents, and interactive displays, Lives Bound Together demonstrates how closely intertwined the lives of the Washingtons were with those of the enslaved.
Journey along the African American History Tour of Alexandria. Stops include the Franklin & Armfield Slave office and the Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary.
The Manassas Industrial School/Jeannie Dean Memorial has an information kiosk and a bronze model outlying the foundations of this historic site. Also, look for the African-American exhibits at the Manassas Museum.
Located just outside of Covington, the Longdale Recreation Area was completed in 1940 and dedicated as the "Green Pastures Recreation Area," an NAACP-requested site for African-American use at that time. The dam, bath house, picnic shelter and two restroom facilities are original to the site.
In Bedford, the Bedford Historic Meeting House still has its original side door, stair and gallery, once used by slaves for the religious and educational purposes in the decades following the Civil War.
Also, in Bedford, see the National D-Day Memorial, dedicated on June 6, 2001. Bedford was selected as the memorial site because the city lost more citizen-soldiers per capita on D-Day than any other city in the nation.
Near the Virginia-North Carolina border in Clarksville, see one of the oldest remaining slave quarters in Virginia at Prestwould Plantation, where a large collection of slave writings and records remain.
Drive through Halifax along the Civil Rights in Education Heritage Trail, a self-guided driving tour through Southside Virginia brings to life 41 historically significant sites and tells the poignant, and often explosive, story of civil rights in education in our country. Don't miss the L.E. Coleman African-American Museum!
To the north in Prince Edward County, visit Twin Lakes State Park, once the only Virginia state park for African Americans. Today, the park offers six miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, campsites, a swimming beach and fresh-water fishing.
Representing more than 100 years on Martinsville's Fayette Street, the Fayette Area Historical Initiative African American Museum was created to collect, preserve and interpret the local African American experience. FAHI also displays images representative of black history on the national level.
Blue Ridge Highlands
Historic Christiansburg includes the Christiansburg Industrial Institute, a private primary school for African-Americans established in 1866 that was once supervised by Booker T. Washington. Visits to the Cambria Historic District, the Montgomery Museum and the Lewis Miller Regional Art Center are musts!
Heart of Appalachia
Last Updated: 9/3/2019