Explore African American History and Culture
North Carolina is nationally renowned for its rich African American history.
To help you explore that heritage we've gathered some of the best places to experience African American music, offer engaging on-site programming that highlight stories from black history and interpret four historic sites that emphasize the African American experience.
With our programming you can get a broad picture of North Carolina's African American history or dive deep into a specific subject. There's so much to explore!
Our museums and historic sites are offer programming related to the African American experience year round. A night of stargazing and African storytelling, Harriet Jacobs-themed tours of Historic Edenton, lectures covering African American music, food and civil rights and a living history program focused on North Carolina's early African American legislators are a few examples of what you might find.
Through June. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. Distant Echoes. This traveling photographic exhibit chronicles the lives and working conditions of black farmers in the U.S. through images of award-winning photographer John Francis Ficara. The plight of the farmers has gone largely unnoticed, but some continue to work the land in spite of decades of prejudice and discrimination. Black farmers are losing land at approximately 1,000 acres a day. The exhibit was organized by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Free.
Through February. Historic Edenton, Edenton. Harriet Jacobs Walking Tour. Tuesdays through Saturdays only. Hear the amazing tale of Harriet Jacobs, a woman born into slavery in Edenton, who escaped to become a well-known abolitionist and author. As documented in her 1861 autobiography, “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” this walking tour shares her story and takes you through downtown Edenton to see many of the sites mentioned in her book. Tours include entry into St. Paul's Church and the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fee.
Feb. 17. Tryon Palace, New Bern. Revolutionary War Soldier Asa Spelman. This Lunch and Learn program celebrates Asa Spelman, a free black cooper who served the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. It explores the work of Spelman and free blacks living in New Bern and Craven County and their work as artisans, soldiers and citizens at the end of the Revolutionary War. Bring your lunch. Noon. $6.
Feb. 18. Somerset Place State Historic Site, Creswell. Black History Lecture: Slave Voices in North Carolina. Personal narratives, poetry and interviews from enslaved North Carolinians will be shared by Linda MacKethan, author and retired English professor, N.C. State University, specializing in Southern and African American literature. The lives of slaves at Somerset Place and Historic Stagville also will be reviewed. Writings of Moses Roper, Harriet Jacobs and George Moses Horton will be among the works examined. Funding provided by the N.C. Humanities Council. The program will be held at Creswell High School. 1 p.m. Free.
Feb. 24. Museum of the Albemarle, Elizabeth City. African Americans in World War I. Learn about African Americans who served in the Great War, such as Moses Sharp from Hertford County. Follow them through turbulent times abroad and learn what life was like for those at home. Guides will be in the self-guided gallery from 1—4 p.m.
Year Round. Somerset Place, Creswell. A representative state historic site that offers a comprehensive and realistic view of 19th-century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally, this unusual plantation included more than 100,000 densely wooded, mainly swampy acres. During its 80 years as an active plantation (1785-1865), hundreds of acres were converted into high yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas, and flax; sophisticated sawmills turned out thousands of feet of lumber. By 1865, Somerset Place was one of the Upper South's largest plantations. Free
Feb. 15. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. Livestream Event: African American Life and Culture in North Carolina History. Museum educator Sally Bloom, Curator Earl Ijames and Michelle Lanier, director of the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, will lead the live interactive class from the museum’s exhibit, “The Story of North Carolina.” Learn facts from the past and “meet” people who helped shape the present. The exhibit will be closed for the 10:15-11:15 a.m. event. Register at http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/events/livestream-event/african-american-life-and-culture-nc.
Feb. 17. Historic Stagville, Durham. Stagville Under the Stars. Join Historic Stagville and Morehead Planetarium for African tales about the night sky and peer through telescopes to take a tour of the stars. 6 p.m. Free.
Feb. 18. Historic Stagville, Durham. A Different “Roots” Story: The Cameron People of Alabama, 1844-2014. Duke University professor emeritus Syd Nathans shares the story of slaves who became owners of the plantation they labored on after the Civil War. Stagville Plantation owner Paul Cameron sent the bondsmen to a cotton plantation in Alabama that he purchased in 1844, which they then purchased from him in 1870. 2 p.m. Free.
Feb. 25. N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh. African American History Highlights Tour. Docent-led tours showcase exhibits in the museum that highlight the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina history. 1:30 p.m. Free.
Feb. 25. West Regional Library, Cary. Because official documentation of African Americans prior to the Civil War was rare, doing genealogical research can be daunting. The Government and Heritage Library (GHL)of the State Library of North Carolina will share some tips and tricks to help with that process during a workshop in Cary. Genealogical Research Librarian Kay Tillotson will lead the free event as part of Wake County Public Libraries’ Black History Month programming. 3 p.m. Please call (919) 463-8500 to register. Free.
Year Round. Historic Stagville, Durham. The remains of North Carolina's largest pre-Civil War plantation and one of the South's largest. It once belonged to the Bennehan-Cameron family, whose combined holdings totaled approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres by 1860. Today, Stagville consists of 71 acres, on three tracts and includes the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer's house, a huge timber framed barn built by skilled enslaved craftsmen and the Bennehan family cemetery. Free.
Feb. 18 and 25. Reed Gold Mine, Midland. Black Gold, Slavery, and Reed Gold Mine. The origins and impact of slavery in the state and at Reed Gold Mine will examine the area’s social and economic environment and how piedmont North Carolina was transformed through the years of backbreaking labor of enslaved men, women and children. 3 p.m. Fee for ages eight and older.
Experience the Magic of African American Music
A guide to music sites, artists and traditions of eastern North Carolina, our African American Music Trails project is a celebration of jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, blues, church music, rap, marching bands and the musicians and places in eastern North Carolina where music has been a part of family, church and community life for generations.
Though all our of historic sites have threads connected to black history, the connection is especially strong at four places throughout the state.
Before being integrated in the 1960s, North Carolina had three segregated state parks for African Americans. Visitors to those parks today can learn more about this period in our history.