Check out these kid-friendly Black history tours in major U.S. cities that are possible to do during the pandemic, along with some great virtual options.

By Mariette Williams
February 23, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images.

For families looking for a fun way to teach their kids about Black history, outdoor tours are a great option. Not only are they family-friendly, but these tours can be customized and are socially distanced to boot.

Here are five cities that offer tours exploring Black history and culture and are perfect for a staycation activity, a weekend away, or a stop on a road trip. And for families who prefer a virtual experience, we have you covered with a few of those, too.

Selma/Birmingham, Alabama

Both Selma and Birmingham are home to significant events in the fight for civil rights, including the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and the 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham. The cities are about 90 miles apart, and it's worth checking out both if you can.

Tour Selma: Three types of private tours are available, including a "sampler" walking tour that explains the rich history of Selma. Highlights include civil rights and voting rights history, including a visit to Brown Chapel AME Church, the starting point for the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches. During the 2.5 mile walk in downtown Selma, visitors will get to hear about the city's past while learning about modern day Selma. (Prices from $125 for up to five people)

Viator: For this tour of Birmingham, travel between sites like Kelly Ingram Park, home to several civil rights rallies, and the John Herbert Phillips Academy, where Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth fought to integrate schools. You'll also visit Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park and learn how the Black business district operated during segregation. (Prices from $63.85 per person)

Harlem, New York

During the 1920s, Harlem was a hotbed for Black creativity. It was home to the Harlem Renaissance, a time of intellectual and artistic exploration spanning through the 1920s and 1930s. During the civil rights movement, Harlem was also a center of organizing and demonstrations.

Viator: This Harlem Renaissance walking tour is approximately three hours long and will show visitors the places made famous by writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and musician Duke Ellington. You'll also stop by Jungle Alley, the home of many speakeasies at the time and see the theaters, ballrooms, and churches that were essential to the renaissance. (Prices from $69.68 per person)

Harlem Heritage Tours: Get ready for a multisensory experience on this unique tour. You'll meet your tour guide at the Harlem Heritage Tourism and Cultural Center, and you'll get to see where famous singer Billie Holiday performed and stand in the spot where Malcolm X gave his speeches. During the two-hour tour, you'll also get to see pictures and videos as you walk one of New York's most beloved cities. (Prices from $25 per person)

Atlanta, Georgia

Often called the "Black Mecca," Atlanta is at the center of Black wealth, culture, and history in America. The capital of the Peach state is teeming with activities that celebrate the Black experience, past and present.

Explore Georgia: This tour combines new and old. Visit iconic Black neighborhoods and historically Black colleges. The stop also includes Tyler Perry Studios, the city's first Black public high school, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace and last residence. (Prices from $65 for adults, $55 for children ages 6-12)

ATL Black History Tour: One of the highlights of this tour is lunch or dinner at Paschal's, a soul food restaurant that has been around since 1947 and has served Martin Luther King Jr. and other key civil rights leaders. Other stops include Madam C.J. Walker's salon and Big Bethel AME Church. (Prices from $55 per person)

Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina was the main entry for enslaved Africans, and experts say that many African Americans can trace their lineage back to the coastal area. South Carolina is also the home of trailblazers like Joe Frazier, James Brown, and Chadwick Boseman.

Gullah Tours: Gullah refers to the language still spoken by a small percentage of Black people in the Lowcountry that originated among enslaved Africans on plantations. The two-hour tour will introduce participants to the culture and history of one of South Carolina's oldest regions. Stops include the Underground Railroad, Emanuel African Methodist Church, and Sweetgrass Market where you'll learn about the art of basket sewing that was brought over from Africa. Gullah storytelling is available upon request. (Prices from $25 per person)

Frankly Charleston Tours: There are a few types of tours this family-owned company usually offers, lasting from 90 minutes to two hours. Visitors get to explore the history of South Carolina, including a stop at the Aiken-Rhett House that was built in the 1820s and remains one of the best-preserved historic homes in the nation. But due to COVID-19, tickets for walking tours are only available. That includes a historical stroll through Wraggborough, a neighborhood in downtown Charleston that has antebellum homes. (Prices from $27 for adults, $23 for seniors, $15 for children)

Celebrate Black History Virtually

For families who prefer to dive into history at home, there are some great ways to do just that by visiting several museums across the country online. A good first stop: The Smithsonian, which been hosting a slew of Black History Month events—including the upcoming "Charlie Parker: A Centennial Spotlight" on February 26, looking at the legendary jazz saxophonist.

Head over to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. (a city also rich in Black history but many tourist attractions aren't open during the pandemic) to check out a digital exhibition on civil rights activist Pauli Murray. She was also a lawyer, women's rights activist, author, and the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. The National Archives in D.C. has also been hosting virtual events throughout the month, including the upcoming "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity" on February 25, which will explore African Americans' past and present.

Then travel to the Midwest to the National Afro American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, to view "Queens of the Heartland," showcasing 30 significant Black women in the state. Make another stop to the American Writers Museum in Chicago to dive into the life of abolitionist Frederick Douglass with "Frederick Douglass: Agitator," which was originally on view at the museum from June 2018 through June 2019.

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