The Washington Post
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African American history sites

Emily Wax and Jessica Goldstein  |  Updated 10/14/2011

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial attracts lots of fanfare, but just outside the spotlight, in Washington and its surroundings, there are dozens of houses, museums and other sites that reflect the history of African Americans in this capital city and the country.


African American Civil War Museum

Washington, DC

Challenging America's traditional memory of African Americans during the Civil War as slaves awaiting rescue, the museum uses documents and photographs to tell the story of how African Americans fought to maintain the Union.


Alexandria Black History Museum

Alexandria, VA

The museum is focused on preserving and celebrating local and regional African American history. There is also a reading room and nine-acre heritage park.


Ben's Chili Bowl

Washington, DC

This D.C. establishment beckons diners with delicious chili on hot dogs and burgers enjoyed at '50s-style bar stools and Formica counters.


Blues Alley

Washington, DC

Don't be fooled by the name: this is a jazz club. All the big names play (or have played) this intimate Georgetown venue, which is pricey, but worth it if you're a jazz head.


Bohemian Caverns

Washington, DC

Legendary jazz spot is split between the cave-like basement, made from petrified wood, and Liv, an upstairs nightclub for hip-hop DJs.


Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives

Washington, DC

The first high school graduation for African Americans in the country took place in 1877 at the Charles Sumner School. Sumner also educated African American students in elementary and secondary school.


Fort Stevens

Washington, DC

Part of the fortifications built around Washington during the Civil War, Fort Stevens sustained a two-day attack from Confederate soldiers in 1864.


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Washington, DC

Frederick Douglass's 14-acre estate, Cedar Hill, centers on a Victorian mansion in Anacostia. The famed orator and former slave lived there from 1878 until his death in 1895.


Lincoln Theatre

Washington, DC

Built in 1922, this theater on U Street provided the stage for some of the nation's finest performers, including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughn. Today, the Lincoln hosts concerts, musicals, pageants and other performances.


Mary McLeod Bethune Council House

Washington, DC

McLeod, the child of former slaves, grew up during Reconstruction in the South and became a teacher, writer, presidential adviser and early civil-rights activist.


Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture

Baltimore, MD

The largest African American museum on the East Coast.


St Augustine Catholic Church

Washington, DC

St. Augustine is considered "the mother church of black Catholics" in Washington.


St. Elizabeths Hospital

Washington, DC

The 19th- and 20th-century hospital buildings cover 300 acres, including a Civil War cemetery that serves as the final resting place for 300 Confederate and Union soldiers. The Brookings Institution suggests this might be the first public cemetery where people were buried regardless of race. The site has one of the city's most spectacular views. The original buildings are no longer open, but visitors can tour the campus.


Anacostia Community Museum

Washington, DC

This Smithsonian Institution museum is devoted to the culture and history of African Americans.


Thurgood Marshall Center

Washington, DC

In the restored Italian Renaissance-style building that housed the historic 12th Street YMCA, the first full-service Y for African Americans.


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Washington, DC

Fifteen years in the making, a memorial celebrating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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