11 Outstanding Travel Destinations that Celebrate Black History

by Emese Graham
st george church lalibela ethiopia

Black History Month is the perfect time to rediscover the deep cultural roots of Africa and the Black diaspora – and what better way to do so than to see for yourself?

From subterranean churches, ancient ruins, celebrated museums, and more, here are some of our favourite travel destinations to celebrate Black history – this February, and all year round.

1. Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco

 

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The MoAD, a Smithsonian affiliate, is entirely dedicated to showcasing the influential art, history, and culture of the African diaspora. Including a visit in your San Francisco getaway is a must.

Since its opening in 2005, the curators, chefs, poets, emerging artists, educators, influencers, and community members alike flock to the MoAD. Not only to pass on Black and African cultural treasures, but to bring them to life.

2. Lalībela, Ethiopia

 

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Lalībela’s famous rock-carved churches date back to the late 1100s, when Emperor Lalībela commissioned their design. Carefully carved from the top down, these eleven churches are a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and represent a significant pilgrimage site today for Ethiopian Christians and Coptic Christians around the world.

3. Africville Museum, Halifax

 

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Africville was born in the late 1700s when Black Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia. The community boomed until it was destroyed in the 1960s and its members forcibly removed. Today, you can visit the rebuilt Africville church – now a museum and guardian of the memories of the erased Black Canadian town, and a hub for the community that survives.

4. Historic Centre of Agadez, Niger

 

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Mud-brick palaces, mosques, and homes bake under the Saharan sun in northern Niger. These ancient buildings, made from even more ancient earth, stand their ground against the sands of time.

Built by the Sultanate of Air in the 15th century, the historic centre of Agadez is a UNESCO World Heritage site and quite a sight to behold. Especially the Grand Mosque’s 27-metre-tall minaret.

5. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit

 

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The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History – simply known as “The Wright” – is the proud home of the largest permanent exhibit of African-American culture. It’s a behemoth.  Explore the Wright’s gorgeous installations of long-celebrated and emerging art. Around every corner is a new spotlight shining on the strength, creativity, and resilience of Black Americans. It’s impossible not feel a sense of awe from the power that emanates from every wall.

6. Meroë, Sudan

 

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Echoes of the kingdom of Kush still ring out in Sudan, east of the Nile. The ancient city of Meroë has cast its collection of geometric shadows in the sand since it was first established in the first millennium BCE. Travellers today can explore the impressive city of palatial buildings, holy temples, and of course, iconic pyramids. This UNESCO World Heritage Site makes for a mind-boggling visit.

7. Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

 

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The eleventh-century city complex known as Great Zimbabwe is remarkably well-preserved for its age. Travellers can still walk among the granite walls of its main acropolis, Great Enclosure, and smaller neighbourhoods that lie outside of the city walls. It’s not difficult to imagine the buzz of life that once filled this sprawling city.

8. Museu Afro Brasil, Brazil

 

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Smack dab in São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park, you’ll find the precocious Museu Afro Brasil. It’s home to a growing collection of over 6,000 artifacts that celebrate the African threads weaved into Brazilian culture and history.

The Museum’s Ruth de Souza theatre (named after the Brazilian actress) is a place of living culture – musicians, thought leaders, politicians, and dancers are welcomed regularly to celebrate Afro-Brazilian lives.

9. Bar’s Bay Park, Bermuda

 

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“We Arrive”. Present tense. This aptly named sculpture installation can be found on the shoreline of Barr’s Bay Park, where once a ship lost its way along the Middle Passage. The 78 enslaved on board were greeted unexpectedly by an already free population, and given the opportunity to call the island home.

Spend a beautiful sunny day picnicking in Bar’s Bay Park, then make your way to Tucker House Museum in Barber’s Alley, St. George – just a 30 minute drive away. There, you’ll discover the story of Joseph Hayne Rainey, who bought his own freedom and sailed straight to Bermuda, opening a barbershop to get by. The same Joseph Hayne Rainey who later returned to the U.S. to become the first African American member of the U.S. House of Representatives, five times over.

10. The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali

 

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Look closely and you’ll see the three symbolic ostrich eggs that top the spires of the Great Mosque. Go inside, and you’ll feel how the two-foot-thick mud walls protect the worshippers inside from the unrelenting sun. Visit in the spring, and you’ll witness the annual festival of re-plastering the mosque’s mud walls – the same walls that have been standing since they were first shaped in the first century CE. To experience the Great Mosque of Djenné is nothing short of magical.

11. The Nelson Mandela Museum, South Africa


Most first-time visitors to South Africa will look to Robben Island for a glimpse of Nelson Mandela’s life story. But don’t make the mistake of missing a trip to the museum which former president Mandela himself supported as part of his legacy. He spoke of the Nelson Mandela Museum as a place to “transform the heritage landscape from our apartheid past… [and] promote economic development… This is a region in which I was born and grew up.”

The museum’s visitors can see a vision not only of South Africa’s troubled past, but of its optimistic future.

 

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