Discovery Map salutes the great diversity of our more than 130 destinations within the United States, Canada and Mexico
Oct 14, 2020 at 8:05 AM in Explore
Part One: Honoring African American Culture
Discovery Map International salutes the great diversity of our more than 130 destinations within the United States, Canada and Mexico. In view of all that has been happening in our world these past months, the Map Geek thought it would be a good idea to create a series of posts that highlight some of the Black and Brown art, heritage and culture offerings within many of our Discovery Map destinations.
Part One of the series honors African Americans. The overall series features a sampling of the many ways you can learn about people of diverse origins, which includes African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and other peoples that deserve to be celebrated yet are often overlooked. Who knows? Maybe the Map Geek will do a series some day that honors women, Asians, people from the LGBTQ community and other segments of our population that are still fighting to gain equal rights within this great land and beyond. Read on and as you do, ponder what you have in your area on the same theme that you think is worth sharing. If you find something good, contact us about it for consideration in a future blog post.
Historic Baltimore, Maryland ranks as one of the biggest bastions of African American culture within the United States. Many illustrious African Americans, including Frederick Douglass, Billie Holiday, Thurgood Marshall and Elijah Cummings were either born in this vibrant city and/or lived there. Read about them and the various ways that Baltimore pays homage to them at Visit Baltimore. There, you can also learn about rising stars in Black America, folks that stand out for their art and/or activist works.
Go to the James E. Lewis Museum of Art on the campus of Morgan State University, one of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities to view a remarkable collection of African American Art. From quilts to paintings to sculpture and more, this renowned museum provides a veritable feast for the eyes.
Row houses, in varying states of splendor and repair, stand out as a very recognizable part of Baltimore’s architectural landscape. You can visit a beautifully restored four-story row home and learn much about the Civil Rights Movement at the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. Here, six galleries showcase all kinds of artifacts relating to the battle against racial prejudice. Did you know that renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass served as an adviser to President Lincoln? You can learn about this and more at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, a center that also celebrates the contributions of African Americans in Baltimore’s maritime industry. Read about these museums and many others of note that showcase African American culture at the Visit Baltimore website.
Have you ever heard of Gullah? There’s no simple answer to what this is because it’s a whole lot of things! Gullah is a rich culture primarily associated with the Lowcountry of Georgia and South Carolina. It’s all encompassing, since it refers to a language, a culture, a cuisine, crafts–it’s a whole way of life that has been going on in this part of the south for centuries. Brought to America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by enslaved Americans that built upon the heritage of their homeland, today it’s a rich culture that shows up in everything from sweetgrass baskets, fried corn cakes and haint blue paint, the Caribbean-colored hues used to paint porch ceilings in order to repel unwanted spirits. And that’s just to name a few!
In Discovery Map’s Hilton Head/Bluffton map, Gullah highlights, such as the Gullah Heritage Trail tour, are featured in the write up entitled The Southern Culture of Hilton Head and Bluffton. Explore Charleston also showcases this rich culture that blends African traditions with Southern ways; here you can learn more about Gullah and find out where to experience it in this historic city. Charleston History Lessons, the Discovery Map write up of Charleston, also highlights Gullah in addition to indicating many other notable places of interest for learning about African American history and culture. (Approximately half of the enslaved Africans that arrived in America landed in Charleston.)
Traveling down the east coast to Florida, you’ll find out that you don’t have to go to a big city to learn about Black history and culture. New Smyrna Beach, a glorious Florida destination on the Atlantic, claims a little gem of a museum dedicated to the history of its African American community from the early 1900s to present. As cited in Art, History and Culture of NSB, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum is housed within a nineteenth-century church in the historic West Side community of New Smyrna Beach. It’s charming inside and out and the stories it contains within will touch your heart.
A visit here could be followed by a contemplative walk on the beach at Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park, a tranquil spot south of New Smyrna Beach on six acres between Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean. People find the best of two worlds here, since there’s a boardwalk on the ocean side and a fishing pier on the river side. There are also lots of nice areas to play a variety of sports and games, grill, lounge and even gaze out at the manatees. It’s named after the African American educator, Mary McLeod, who helped to establish this sweet spot as a beach for her fellow African Americans. (They were banned from nearby and world-famous Daytona Beach during the days of segregated Florida.) Part of the Florida Black Heritage Trail, this lovely locale rates high today for its beauty and ease. The waves can be darn good here, too, which is why it’s often referred to as a surfer’s paradise.
Speaking of surf, let’s head out to Santa Monica, California, a beloved Discovery Map destination on the West Coast. In the write up Santa Monica and Its Neighborhoods, you learn about the diverse looks of the various parts of this tiny California city on the Pacific. Although not overly emphasized in the write up, Santa Monica also boasts great cultural diversity. Does that surprise you? When many people think of Santa Monica, they imagine it to be an enclave of wealthy white people, many of whom work in the film industry. While that’s partly true, there’s also a lot of Black and Brown people that live there, particularly within the historic Pico district. This area was once, in fact, the only place that nonwhites and Jews could own property in this part of California. Today it’s a hip area peppered with houses that cost a bundle. A house that might have sold for $50,000 back in the 1950s, for example, might now go for close to a million dollars. Yes, like in so many other parts of the country–and the world–Black people moved in, fixed up houses or built their own, leading to the gentrification of a once rundown area. Punctuated by cool bars, restaurants and shops, today Pico is a fun place to go. It’s become so happening that a lot of homeowners rent out their properties to vacationers and, of course, real estate prices continue to soar. Check out the video, Santa Monica’s Pico District: A Historic Black Neighborhood at a Crossroads, to find out more.
So there you have a glimpse of what you find within a handful of our Discovery Map destinations. Pretty cool, don’t you think? With your Discovery Map in hand, you’re sure to discover many more places of interest that celebrate African American heritage. Did anyone say jazz? Go ahead and seek some out along with other forms of terrific music that have their roots in Black culture. And be sure to get back to us about what you’ve found. That could easily make up a whole lot of other blog posts!