Here is a sampling of black heritage travel destinations in the USA and abroad as well as an article on the subject.
• Civil Rights Trail in Alabama includes the Civil Rights Memorial in downtown Montgomery, the Wall of Tolerance, the Rosa Parks Museum, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where King preached as well as the accompanying parsonage. An interpretive center along the route of the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March is located US 80. The National Park Service facility commemorates the location where marchers camped after being forced from their homes for attempting to register to vote. There is a walk visitors can take across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where marchers were attacked in 1965, then step inside the National Voting Rights Museum to learn about the movement’s foot soldiers. This and much more is available on the Civil Rights Trail.www.touralabama.org/tours-trails/civil-rights-trail
- Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi
- National Underground Railroads Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
- The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery Alabama
- Paris has served as a mecca for African American artists, musicians and writers since the early 1900”s. There are amazing tours available that explore the phenomenon and highlight the locations of black expat communities, past and present. “No city seduces as skillfully as Paris. With a sly, knowing wink, the City of Light steals your heart with one clear, small joyous moment after another. Linger too long on the Pont des Arts and passion may nudge your slumbering spirit awake, or kiss your lips, or turn you into a whimsical work of art.” H. Thompson African Americans in France have pioneered a new type of black community; one based on positive affinities, and experiences rather than the negative limitations of segregation. Although small, the African American community in Paris has generally achieved enough of a critical mass to generate its own institutions, traditions and presence. Constituting a crucial innovations in life overseas: the rise of a collective black American life in a foreign city that enables blacks to leave American racism behind without also forsaking African American culture.The African American community in Paris symbolizes the potential of African American life in general once its fully liberated from the scales of racism. I suppose that is why it has been home to the likes of James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Gordon Parks, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Richard Wright, Countee Cullen, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Lois Mailou Jones and Ed Clark.î (Excerpt from Paris Noir by Tyler Stovall) For more information about Black Paris visit, http://maisoncna.org/ and for walking tours of Black Paris visit www.walkingthespirit.com
• Ghana, Africa – March 2007 marked Ghana’s 50th independence anniversary and the 200th anniversary marking Britain’s abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Ghana government is planning customary funeral rites for the millions who died, plus a healing ceremony for their descendants who survived. There will be a plethora of African American tour groups going there to commemorate their sovereignty.
• Garifuna Settlement Festival, Dangria, Belize. This amazing annual festival occurs on November 19th and commemorates the Garifuna peoples arrival to Belize. The Garifuna people are one of the few groups of African people in the Diaspora who were never enslaved. They have managed to retain an amazing amount of their African culture, language and food. When I attended the remarkable event, I kept asking myself, Am I in Africa or the Americas? (It is located in central America, below Mexico and it is an English speaking country)
• South Carolina Sea Islands – The Gullahs who live on the island are descendants of West African slaves who worked the rice and cotton fields before they were freed and offered a chance to purchase their land. As whites deserted the coast in favor of milder climates inland, the Gullahs lived in isolation for generations, allowing them to maintain their African culture longer than any slave descendants in America. They have a number of festivals and tours that enable the visitors to learn more about their unique culture.
1. Gullah festival every memorial day – 20 years running in Beaufort SC (They also offer driving tours of African American coastal trails)
2. Sweet grass cultural arts festival, (features traditional basket weaving) in June – Mount Pleasant
3. Mojo Arts Festival in Charleston SC – 23 years running in late September (art, dance, drumming, tours, food, storytelling, theatre, exhibitions, lectures)
4. Island Heritage Festival in James Island mid June
6. Gullah/Geechee Nation International African Music & Movement Festival in August
For more info, visit (www.geocities.com/gullahpride), (www.gullahfestival.org) or (www.discoversouthcarolina.com/see-do/history-heritage/african_american.aspx)
• Yemanya Celebration, Bahia Brazil – This beautiful festival is dedicated to the Yemanya, the Goddess of the Ocean and is celebrated every year on February 2. At dawn, the area around the Rio Vermelho beach is lit up with fireworks. Shortly thereafter hundreds of people, all dressed in white, start to line up outside of the temporary shrine erected to hold the gifts to Yemanya. Around 4:00 a.m., the Mes de Santo begins a Candomble ceremony adjacent to the shrine. Once the gift baskets are full, they are loaded onto boats and the boats take them out to ocean and are thrown over as an offering to Yemanya. Once the boats depart with the gifts, people start to party to live music on the streets until dawn, having once again pleased the ever-powerful Ocean Goddess.
• African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference, www.ADHT.net. The African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference has been established to focus the dialogue on heritage and cultural development within countries of the Diaspora that are in the process of creating destinations as tourism attractions. This is a cross-border, international conference bringing a number of disciplines together to explore issues, set policy and think through the future as we continue the development of the legacy of the African descendants.
• Black Holocaust Museum in America (ABHM), in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, exists to educate the public of injustices suffered by people of African American heritage, while providing visitors with an opportunity to rethink their assumptions about race and racism. ABHM Exposes visitors to the historical aspects of African American cultural identity through educational exhibits, special programming, and guided tours related to six distinct historic eras: 1. Before Captivity in Africa, 2. The Middle Passage, 3. Slavery in the Americas, 4. Reconstruction, 5. Civil Rights, 6. and Modern Day Injustices http://www.blackholocaustmuseum.org
- Harlem walking tours – hushtours.com
- Harlem food and culture tours – tasteharlem.com
Here is a link to an amazing article on civil rights tourism by Sarah Enelow
Travel Getaways with a Cultural Theme. by Tracey Robinson-English
(Reprint from Ebony Magazine, 2006)
TAKE a close-up snapshot of a wild African lion on a safari in Ghana. See where Josephine Baker and James Baldwin lived in Paris. Explore Bermuda’s African Diaspora Heritage Trail that brings Black history alive with African customs.
These are just a few of the abundant cultural vacation tours African-Americans can experience to tap into their roots. According to Target Market News, African-Americans spent more than $4 billion on leisure travel in the U.S. and abroad before 9/11, but stayed closer to home during the last few years. African-Americans have since made a strong comeback, generating nearly $5 billion on leisure travel last year, according to the latest figures available.
A growing African-American travel market is sending a clear wake-up call to the travel industry to cater to Blacks and their travel needs, experts say. “Every sector of the travel industry–hotels, theme parks, city visitor bureaus–has begun to reach out to the minority traveler through targeted advertising, minority travel guides and special ethnic promotions,” says William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America.
African-Americans are enjoying traditional destinations and venturing to exotic excursions as singles, families and in groups. They’re big on “girlfriend getaways,” jazz cruises, ski trips and chartering customized tours to explore Black history.
“I find that people are looking for something deeper,” says Nne Nne Jean Ibeawuchi, owner of Soul Planet Travel, a company that customizes trips for African-Americans to Paris, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco, and U.S. destinations. “They want to do something more besides eat, party and lounge on the beach.”
That is why Africa, Brazil [especially the Bahia region] and Black Paris are such big draws. African-American travelers can still have fun, but also experience and learn more about our African history and culture.”
Popular vacation spots for African-Americans continue to be the Caribbean–especially Jamaica–Paris, Mexico, the British Isles, Brazil and Africa, especially Ghana and South Africa, say travel industry experts. If you choose to experience these locations, here’s a snapshot of what you can expect:
Bermuda is a perfect escape from winter. Located east of South Carolina in the North Atlantic Ocean, this string of 181 islands and islets enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, nearly equal to that of the United States.
Proud and friendly people–65 percent of whom are of African ancestry–are eager to display their homeland. “There’s been long-standing relations between Bermuda and African-Americans,” says Ewart Brown, deputy premier minister of tourism and transport. Tourism, he says, is a $60 million industry that represents about 15 percent of the country’s annual budget. “Tourism and trade are important for us, but they are also important for our people to see the linkage between us and African-Americans.”
To lure African-American tourists, Bermuda flourishes with plenty of attractions such as golfing, health retreats and annual musical festival featuring African-American celebrities. Travelers can rejuvenate at the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Southhampton Hotel or at the Mandarin Oriental Spa at the Elbow Beach Hotel. You can also taste one of island’s homemade delicacies, Bermuda black rum cakes.
“With Black wealth and exposure reaching a pinnacle, African-Americans are assertively traveling to the 21-mile paradise,” says Keetha Lowe, president of Integrated Global Management, an independent marketing firm based in Bermuda. “It is not only an escape, but it also offers numerous educational and economic opportunities for African-Americans.”
A historic journey on the African Diaspora Heritage Trail zigzags the island highlighting the story of a mixed culture of African, Native Indian, Caribbean and British heritage. Along the trial, you can experience the brilliant Gombey dancers. This colorful troupe of masked dancers, wearing dramatic peacock headdresses and elaborate capes, trace their roots back to Africa during the 1700s. Dancers also portray biblical stories backed by the rhythm of percussionists.
In Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, you can savor what’s described as “the most African city in South America.” Tourists can experience the religion of Candomble, a mix of Catholicism and African rituals, African-in-spired foods, soulful drums throughout the streets, and capoeira, a Brazilian art that fuses dance, sport and African martial arts.
The Brazilian culture is evident in many ways throughout the area. Bahian women, who create intricate handmade lace apparel and household items such as aprons, tablecloths and curtains, majestically walk to market with baskets perfectly balanced on their heads. You can also appreciate artisans producing vivid oil paintings of street scenes on canvas.
In Rio De Janeiro, tourists can ride cable cars up to a high point on Corcovado Mountain to marvel at the 125-foot statute of Christ the Redeemer with its arms outstretched over the city. After a day of sightseeing, including views of Sugarloaf Mountain, visitors can feast at Churrascaria, one of Rio’s favorite barbeque restaurants where waiters bring to your table tender choice beef, pork, lamb and chicken.
After dinner, the Platforma Night Club promises a rousing show of different costumes, music and dancing capturing Carnival rhythms. Vacation tours to Bahia and Rio are available with as much as 50 percent off airfares, so check for the best travel packages.
Soul Planet Travel’s tour of Black Paris. After exploring popular monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral, African-Americans visitors can enjoy famous hangouts of Black Parisians, African-American expatriates and learn about other Black experiences.
“When you look at your pictures of Black Paris, you think about how African-American troops like the 369th Regiment “Harlem Hell Fighters” fought and died to save those beautiful buildings along the Champs Elysee,” says Nne Nne Jean Ibeawuchi, owner of Soul Planet Travel. There’s also plenty of free time to dine at cool African restaurants like La Jungle, or relax at a jazz concert at Duc des Lombards, named after the legendary Duke Ellington.
Travel experts agree that soulful vacation getaways may be the ticket to a rare glimpse of history while renewing mind, spirit and purpose.