6 Historic Properties Preserved In Honor Of African-American History
From the works of visionaries like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. to the cruel realities of slavery, African-Americans have played a major role in U.S. history, and below are several historic sites that were pivotal for major heroes and heroines in the black community before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement.
1. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Martin Luther King Jr.'s childhood home is one of several buildings in Atlanta preserved as a historic site because of its connection to the Civil Rights Movement; the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church is another. King spent his first 12 years at 501 Auburn Ave., which was built in 1895 for a white family. Today both buildings are open to the public. Ebenezer Baptist Church is where King was baptized, was ordained as a minister, preached with his father and, ultimately, was the site of his funeral.
2. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Monument
The Underground Railroad's most famous conductor, Harriet Tubman, risked her life repeatedly bringing approximately 70 slaves to freedom. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center opens on March 11 this year in her Maryland hometown. The site was preserved by President Barack Obama in 2013 and details how Tubman saved so many people from slavery. Miraculously, she never lost a single passenger.
3. Langston Hughes' Harlem Home
Built in 1869, 20 East 127th St. was Langston Hughes' headquarters during the Harlem Renaissance. Today the poet's home is landmark protected, but that's not enough for many people — last August hundreds of supporters donated upward of $52k to save the property from gentrification. In the long run they want to turn the house into a community space for workshops and readings. Today the NYC home sits empty and the owner is looking to sell it, with experts estimating the property is worth at least $3M.
4. Berkeley Plantation
No discussion of American history is complete without the painful memory of slavery. One of the largest plantations in Virginia, Berkeley Plantation was both the ancestral home of two U.S. presidents, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, and the home of hundreds of slaves. Today the property is a living museum where guests can glimpse what life on a plantation during slavery was like, complete with guides in period costumes.
5. Frederick Douglass' Washington, DC, Home
An escaped slave and a leader in many progressive moments, including the abolition movement, Frederick Douglass was known for his firm belief in the equality of all. He lived in Cedar Hill in Washington, DC, for the last 17 years of his life, and today his home is preserved as a historic site and open to the public. Douglass bought the property in 1877 and, after several renovations, turned the home into a 21-room mansion.
6. Brown v. Board Of Education National Site
Monroe Elementary School (pictured) played a critical role in the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in American public schools. Fitting its historical importance, the Topeka, Kan., school was transformed into a national historic site in 1992, long after it ceased operating as a school in 1975. Today the building is part of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site and is open to the public.