Last Updated on August 21, 2023
Last Updated on August 21, 2023
Black history in North Carolina, like most things in life, is better understood at the locations where important events transpired. From Underground Railroad sites to Civil Rights landmarks and hubs of African-American business, this guide features some inspiring places for you to visit.
Black History Month in February results in increased traffic to these sites, but we hope you’ll keep these landmarks in mind throughout the year. Such important parts of America’s story should not be limited to simply one month.
Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do in North Carolina
List of Places to Learn Black History in North Carolina (+ Map)
For the guide, we’ve alphabetically arranged these important places in Black history in North Carolina.
- African American Heritage Tour (New Bern)
- African-American Museum of History & Culture (Gastonia)
- African-American Music Trail (Various)
- Airborne and Special Operations Museum (Fayetteville)
- Black History Murals
- Black Wall St (Durham)
- Bull City Laughs (Durham)
- Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum (Gibsonville)
- Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station (Rodanthe)
- Halifax Underground Railroad Trail (Halifax County)
- Harriet Jacobs Trail (Edenton)
- Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (Charlotte)
- The Historic Magnolia House (Greensboro)
- Historic Stagville (Durham)
- Hood Huggers International Tours (Asheville)
- International Civil Rights Center & Museum (Greensboro)
- Montford Memorial (Jacksonville)
- Nina Simone Plaza (Tryon)
- North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh)
- Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum (Wilson)
- Pope House Museum (Raleigh)
- Princeville (Edgecombe County)
- St Phillips Moravian Church (Winston-Salem)
- Somerset Place State Historic Site (Creswell)
- Underground Railroad Museum (Washington)
- Young Men’s Institute (Asheville)
You can also visually plan your adventures with this map we created via Google Maps. Before you do that, keep reading for more details on each site.
Read More: The NC Tripping North Carolina Travel Map
African American Heritage Tour (New Bern)
Start from New Bern’s Convention Center and embark on an African-American Heritage Tour that includes more than 10 landmarks. You’ll learn about the Rhone family and Isaac Smith, two names that live on largely in part due to this tour.
We try to limit the spoilers, but the corner of Middle and Pollock Streets is an important stop. At the same time as the Greensboro Sit-in, a local sit-in occurred here, too.
Read More: 15+ Awesome Things to Do in New Bern
African-American Museum of History & Culture, Gastonia
Gastonia’s African-American Museum of History & Culture at Loray Mill is one of the newer places to learn about Black history in North Carolina. Open since February 2019, this museum honors African-Americans who have contributed to the Gaston County community.
These influential contributors include business leaders, artists, and more change-makers who’ve made an impact on Gaston County.
African-American Music Trail (Various)
The African-American Music Trail is the first of a few car-friendly ways to learn about Black history in North Carolina. It’s spread across multiple cities and towns in Eastern North Carolina.
Some of our favorite exhibits include the art installations at Kinston’s Music Park and the beautiful mural in Goldsboro. There’s much more to discover here, however; purchase a guidebook via the NC Arts Council and learn about the trail and musicians who lived and played along it.
Airborne and Special Operations Museum (Fayetteville)
Visiting the Airborne and Special Operations Museum (ASOM) is one of our favorite things to do in Fayetteville. This Cumberland County attraction hosts an exhibit featuring the 555th Battalion (aka Triple Nickels).
This historically all-Black airborne unit was activated during World War II and officially served from 1942 to 1950. Many of its members continued to serve during the Korean War.
Black History Murals
The African-American Music Trail is one of many ways to learn Black history in North Carolina through the arts. Another way is to admire the many murals that honor Black North Carolinians who were musicians, but who also made a difference in other ways.
Here are a few examples:
- The African American Trailblazers Mural where Chapel Hill and Carrboro Meet (111 S. Merritt Mill Rd), by Kiara Sanders
- Depot Street Renaissance Mural in Winston-Salem (7th Street between Research Pkwy and Vine St) by Leo Rucker
- Durham Civil Rights Mural (120 Morris St), by Brenda Miller Holmes
- “Mosaic Village” in Charlotte (1545 W Trade St), by Abel Jackson: This amazing mural can be seen along with others through an Art Walk.
These are just a few amazing representations of people who’ve made a difference. If you know of any more that we should feature, please feel free to contact us.
Also, this guide is not finished sharing Black History through art. So keep reading for more!
Black Wall St (Durham)
Parrish Street in Durham was once known as a hub of African-American enterprise. It spanned four blocks and earned the praise of prominent figures such as Booker T Washington and WEB Dubois.
Today, a historic marker sits at the corner of Parrish and Mangum streets, commemorating Durham’s Black Wall Street. The old headquarters of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, one of many businesses to have originated here, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Bull City Laughs (Durham)
While the route can sometimes change, BCL typically focuses on Black history in Durham, in and around downtown, and in the areas that once made up Black Wall Street. Also, this is not a PG-rated tour, in case you were wondering.
Check out our interview with owner Brandon Wright, on our podcast, NC Travel Chat!
Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum (Gibsonville)
In 1901, teacher Charlotte Hawkins Brown established the Alice Freeman Palmer Institute in Gibsonville, near Greensboro. As president of the preparatory school for 50 years, Brown graduated more than 1,000 African-American students.
Thanks to the efforts of Brown’s niece and her classmate, the site was designated as North Carolina’s first African-American State Historic Site. Today, you can visit and walk through the shoes of the many students who lived and learned at the school.
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station (Rodanthe)
Drive down US 12 on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway, one of our favorite scenic roads, and you’ll eventually come upon the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. Commissioned in late 1874, this was the first life-saving station along North Carolina’s coast.
It was also America’s only life-saving station crewed by African-Americans. One notable feat of heroism came in 1896 when the surfmen rescued all nine passengers of the ES Newman while battling a hurricane.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in the Outer Banks
Halifax Underground Railroad Trail (Halifax County)
The Halifax Underground Railroad Trail will take you around three towns in Halifax County. Each National Park Service-designated site provides a piece of the story of a runaway slave’s journey to freedom.
Halifax (25 St David St) is where you’ll find the first site. Here, you’ll find a series of wanted ads once posted in North Carolina newspapers. These ads will lead you to the Roanoke River, a guiding path for the “runaways” in their escape.
River Falls Park in the town of Weldon (100 Rockfish Dr) hosts the second site. The Roanoke River comes into full view here and demonstrates the dangerous circumstances presented to those who escaped.
Finally, the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail in Roanoke Rapids offers information about the slaves who largely built the canal. Ironically, that same canal was utilized as part of the escape route after its completion.
Harriet Jacobs Trail (Edenton)
An exhibit inside the Visitor Center features photos and illustrations of her life and the people and places associated with it. You can also embark on a self-guided tour and visit sites related to Jacobs and her eventual escape north via the Maritime Underground Railroad.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (Charlotte)
The Harvey B Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (The Gantt) is part of the Levine Center for the Arts in Charlotte.
The Gantt’s location and design offer much insight into Black history in Charlotte, residing in the razed Brooklyn neighborhood that once was a Black community hub. Its outer aesthetic is inspired by the demolished Myers Street School, once the Queen City’s only African-American public school.
Inside the Gantt, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to Black history, art, and culture in North Carolina and beyond. The Gantt also works with local creatives to cultivate a community of arts in Charlotte, a community that will hopefully last for many years.
The Historic Magnolia House (Greensboro)
If you are looking for an overnight Black History experience, we highly recommend staying at The Magnolia House in Greensboro. The Magnolia House is a Green Book site, meaning that it was listed as safe for Black travelers during Jim Crow.
Among its clientele, multiple famous Black musicians, authors, and sports figures have stayed at The Magnolia House.
Along with its historical significance, The Magnolia House’s Sunday brunch earned it a spot among the best places to eat in Greensboro! It’s open to the public on Sundays and they serve some of the best grits in all of North Carolina.
Read More: 30+ Awesome Things to Do in Greensboro
Historic Stagville (Durham)
Historic Stagville is the former site of a massive plantation in North Carolina. It once housed more than 900 enslaved people and today, the site is trying to tell the story of those who were forced to live and work here.
There are tours held throughout much of the week, though you can visit either the one-time main house or Horton Grove, which housed the enslaved people.
Hood Huggers International Tours (Asheville)
DeWayne Barton leads Hood Huggers International Tours, an interactive look at Black history in Asheville. He’ll take you through neighborhoods flourishing with the arts, music, and more grassroots initiatives.
A common theme in this community is resilience, a theme that is worth listening to during one of Barton’s tours. Both driving tours and walking tours are available, offering a nice mix depending on your ability to keep up.
International Civil Rights Center & Museum (Greensboro)
Today, it’s known as the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, but, before February 1, 1960, it was a whites-only lunch counter. On that day, a group of four North Carolina A&T students took action that would change the world.
The museum commemorates the A&T Four, who each took a seat at the counter and peacefully fought for change. Galleries and exhibits share the story of their five-month-long sit-in but also the greater Civil Rights struggle as a whole.
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Greensboro
Montford Memorial (Jacksonville)
Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville is a powerful place, with monuments dedicated to Americans who fought and died in multiple wars and important moments in our history. Also at Lejeune is the Montford Point Marine Memorial, which remembers African-Americans who trained during and after World War II from 1942-49, all while segregated from the white soldiers.
There’s also a wall of 20,000 stars dedicated to honoring the unnamed troops because no active roster can be located. Another thing to appreciate about the Montford Point Marine Association is that they continue to search for those who served from ’42 to ’49.
When identified, these veterans are presented with congressional gold medals. In case you know a Montford Point Marine who hasn’t yet been recognized, please contact the Montford Point Marine Association.
Nina Simone Plaza (Tryon)
Nina Simone Plaza in Tryon honors one of the world’s most powerful and iconic voices. Born Eunice Waymon in 1933, Tryon was Nina Simone’s childhood home until she moved to Asheville to continue her education.
That education eventually led to Julliard and a professional career in singing. The name “Nina Simone” came as a disguise from family she feared would not approve of her playing “the devil’s music.”
The Eunice Waymon—Nina Simone Memorial Project honors her life and legacy, even offering a scholarship to rising sixth graders.
North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh)
Each February, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh celebrates Black History Month with special exhibits and tours, but they still offer much to learn at any other time of the year. The free-to-visit “Story of North Carolina” exhibit takes you through our state’s history from its pre-history through today.
You’ll learn about slavery in North Carolina, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights struggle, and more as you stroll through. As long as the Smithsonian is kind enough to let us have it, the original Woolworth’s counter where the A&T Four made history is on display, too.
Read More: Things to Do in Raleigh
Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum (Wilson)
The Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse Museum in Wilson is housed in one of the most unique buildings you’ll find. Inside, the museum offers an insight into African-American life and contributions to the Wilson community, from slavery through today.
You’ll also find examples of Freeman’s work in and around the house. Freeman’s work accentuates this amazing place where all can come and learn about Black history in North Carolina.
Pope House Museum (Raleigh)
The Pope House Museum is special for more than a few reasons. For starters, it is North Carolina’s only African-American house museum.
This free Raleigh attraction commemorates Dr. Manassa Thomas Pope, who built the home and was also the only African-American male to run for mayor in a Southern capital city during the Jim Crow era.
During a tour, you’ll find original family furnishings, historic artifacts, and more.
Read More: Things to Do With Kids in Raleigh
Princeville (Edgecombe County)
The Princeville Museum and Welcome Center honors the oldest town incorporated by African-Americans. A group of freed slaves founded this town and named it “Freedom Hill” after the Civil War.
Sitting right across the Tar River from Tarboro is a mobile museum designed by NC State students, accompanied by an informative display. Just before you reach the bridge that crosses the river, you’ll also see a historic marker that briefly describes Freedom Hill.
St Phillips Moravian Church (Winston-Salem)
St Phillips is a unique contribution to Black history in North Carolina (and the United States). Many of the Moravians who worshipped here between 1823 and 1861 were enslaved and the only congregation historically made up of African-American Moravians in the US.
You can still join the church congregations on Sundays in their Historic Brick Church inside the Old Salem complex.
Read More: Museums in Winston-Salem
Somerset Place State Historic Site (Creswell)
Somerset Place was once a working plantation and sawmill that produced rice, corn, lumber, and more. Hundreds of enslaved people were responsible for these products (and more) over 80 years, until the end of the Civil War.
It was once among the South’s largest plantations, has since been transformed into an interactive educational tool. You can walk around the site and many of its buildings, which are paired with explanatory exhibit markers.
Underground Railroad Museum (Washington)
The Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum details Washington and Beaufort County’s history of slavery. Housed in a caboose, the museum’s collection also shares the story of enslaved people in the area who sought freedom from slavery.
This site is designated by the National Parks Service’s “Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.”
Young Men’s Institute (Asheville)
The Young Men’s Institute in Asheville was built as a YMCA equivalent for Black men and boys who helped construct the Biltmore Estate. In fact, it’s designed similarly to many of the homes at the estate and buildings in Biltmore Village.
Today, the YMI (now the YMI Cultural Center) hosts exhibitions, educational, cultural, and social activities, along with leadership and economic development programs.
Read More: How to Enjoy Christmas at Biltmore
Where Can We Learn More Black History in North Carolina?
As much as we love books and articles about these places, you’re not going to learn as much about Black history in North Carolina as you could from a visit.
Also, please let us out if we left out any vital spots for Black history in North Carolina! We’re always happy to hear about that.