Virginia is home to the longest continuous experience of African-American culture and life in the United States, dating back to August 1619, when the first Africans were involuntarily brought to the shores of Jamestown . The proud, rich heritage and struggle of the black experience in Virginia is something that visitors to Virginia can relive through sites, artifacts, events and museums across the state.
Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg
Begin your journey at Jamestown Settlement , where the gallery gives visitors a chance to see and hear the story of the first Africans who arrived in the new country. Then, follow the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg . During February, special events are planned in recognition of Black History Month. See the reconstructed slave quarters at Carter's Grove Plantation, and try your hand at slave chores, such as gardening, cooking or woodworking. There are other programs planned throughout the year, too.
Farther east in Newport News, tour The Newsome House Museum , which commemorates J. Thomas Newsome, one of the first African-American lawyers to argue before the Virginia Supreme Court. Learn about the heroics of African-American soldiers at the Virginia War Museum , and talk with a bucket maker about life as a freed black in colonial times at the Mariners' Museum .
|Hampton University Museum has African art and artifacts. it
is one of the oldest African-American museums in the nation.
A short drive east to Hampton takes you to Hampton University , founded in 1868 and one of the earliest established educational institutions for blacks in the U.S. While on campus, visit the Emancipation Oak , believed to be the place where President Abraham Lincoln's famous proclamation was first read to Hampton slaves!
Enjoy an impressive collection of African and African-American fine art and artifacts at the Hampton University Museum ,
one of the oldest African-American museums in the country.
|See the Virginia Air & Space Center's exhibit
on the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
In the sanctuary of Hampton's Little England Chapel , the only known African-American missionary chapel in the state, see a short video and collection of photographs and materials that help explain the religious lives of post-Civil War blacks.
Nearby, the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe tells the story of "Freedom's Fort," the refuge for thousands of runaway slaves during the Civil War.
To learn about the first black U.S. aviators, visit the Virginia Air & Space Center end enjoy the photographic exhibit of Tuskegee Airmen.
In nearby Norfolk, visit Elmwood Cemetery to view the Black Soldiers Memorial , honoring Union veterans of the Civil War. At nearby , the largest predominately black university in the nation, enjoy a display of slavery memorabilia at the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library.
|Portsmouth's Umoja Festival takes place
in September and is one of Virginia's
most popular events.
In Portsmouth, take a walking tour past the Emanuel A.M.E. Church , furnished with benches hand cared by slaves. Afterwards, see sports memorabilia of such Virginia greats as Arthur Ashe and Ralph Sampson at the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame .
Mark your calendar for the annual Umoja Festival in September.
Richmond - The Birthplace of Black Capitalism
In Richmond, the state capital, discover one of the country's foremost African-American communities, Jackson Ward , named "The Harlem of the South." While there, visit the Home of Maggie Walker , the first female bank president in America. Also, visit the Black History Museum and Cultural Center.
In Farmville, visit the Robert Russa Moton Museum , where a student strike in 1951 spurred the lawsuit of Brown v. The Board of Education case in 1954, a hallmark in the civil rights movement.
|Richmond was the birthplace of
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who tapped his way to fame in Hollywood.
The nearby Bill "Bojangles" Robinson statue recognizes the dancer best known for his tap dancing with child-star Shirley Temple. Also, visit the nearby Virginia Fire & Police Museum , which honors the city's first African-American fire company.
For special exhibits on black life during the Civil War, visit the Museum of the Confederacy .
To view African art, travel to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Center at Virginia Union University. Wilder was the first elected African-American governor and currently serves as Richmond's mayor!
A popular addition to Monument Avenue , considered to be one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world, is the statue to tennis star Arthur Ashe .
|Pamplin Historical Park in Petersburg presents
costumed interpreters describing slave life
during the Civil War.
To the south in Petersburg, the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Memorial commemorates independent Liberia's first president. Travel through The Triangle, Petersburg's African-American business center for more than a century.
Gillfield Baptist Church , with what is believed to be the oldest handwritten black church record book in America, opens its archives to interested visitors.
Listen and learn from costumed interpreters at the Petersburg National Battlefield and Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier about the slaves during the Civil War. Also, take a look at Pocahontas Island in the Appomattox River, a free African-American community in 1800.