Want to explore NC’s Black culture and heritage? Here are 9 places to get you started.

Black history is happening all around us in North Carolina, and there are a multitude of places to explore, listen and learn, historians and cultural experts said.

“We are making history every day we draw a breath,” said Valerie Ann Johnson, Shaw University sociology professor and dean of Arts, Sciences and Humanities.

“Given that perspective, all the different things that humans have done yesterday are as important as things done 100 years ago. It’s just different, and we uncover, given our proximity to the time in which something has happened, there’s more and more to discover and uncover,” said Johnson, who is also president of the African American Heritage Commission.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of festivals, events and historic sites to explore. You can find more online at the NC African American Heritage Commission website.

N.C. Civil Rights Trail

Where: Statewide

What to know: Includes preserved buildings and historic markers, birthplaces, schools and the location of sit-ins, protests and places visited by civil rights leaders. Some of the larger venues are Freedom Park in Raleigh, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte and Hayti Heritage Center in Durham.

Get a marker: The N.C. African American Heritage Commission is accepting applications through June 14 for new Civil Rights Trail markers. Apply online at aahc.nc.gov/programs/civil-rights-trail or email nccivilrightstrail@ncdcr.gov.

More information: Find a virtual tour and map online at tinyurl.com/39m3ja79

Civil Rights Trail highlights NC people and events that advanced racial equality

Pope House Museum

Where: 511 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays

What to know: Take a free tour through the house built in 1901 by a prominent Raleigh doctor, Manassa Thomas Pope, who also was the only Black man to run for mayor of a Southern capital in the Jim Crow era. The Pope House is in the Third Ward, a historic Black neighborhood of wealthier Black professionals and laborers, and contains documents, artifacts and furnishings dating to 1851.

More information: The Pope House is one of many Raleigh landmarks that reflect the history and achievements of Black residents. A free Raleigh Historic Development Commission app — Raleigh Historic — takes visitors on a self-guided tour of more than three dozen sites.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum and State Historic Site

Where: 6136 Burlington Road, Gibsonville

When: Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

What to know: Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the granddaughter of enslaved Black people, founded the former Palmer Memorial Institute for Black students in 1902. The school, on 40-plus acres, served more than 2,000 students.

More information: tinyurl.com/spmjus5e

Ocean City Jazz Festival

Where: North Topsail Beach

When: July 5-7

What to know: The festival celebrates the history of the Ocean City beach community, established in 1949 when Black Americans were denied access to public recreation and beaches in North Carolina’s white communities. Ocean City was the first area where Black families could own beach homes.

More information: oceancityjazzfest.com

African American Experience of Northeast NC

Where: Northeastern North Carolina

What to know: Initiative celebrates the cultural heritage of Black residents in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Martin, Pasquotank, and Washington counties. It includes over 30 sites, including the N.C. Aquarium and Pea Island Cookhouse Museum, Historic Jarvisburg Colored School, Roanoke River Underground Railroad Trail Signs, and Colored Union Soldiers Monument.

More information: ncblackheritagetour.com

African American Music Trails of Eastern NC

Where: Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Wayne, Wilson, Nash and Pitt counties

What to know: The African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina were created about 10 years ago to preserve a musical legacy, from R&B and blues to gospel, jazz, hip-hop and funk. Events held year-round include the monthly African American Music Series at The State Theatre in Greenville. The N.C. Arts Council has stories of 90 musicians online and also produced a guidebook.

More information: tinyurl.com/3da458mj

Gaston County Museum

Where: Dallas, NC

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

What to know: The museum has a collection of 250 works by nationally known artist John T. Biggers, who was born in Gastonia. The collection is being assessed for conservation and treatment before going on display, museum officials said, but art from his nephew, James C. Biggers, is displayed in the museum foyer, along with a history of the Biggers family.

More information: tinyurl.com/yc2re6cf

African-American Cultural Celebration

Where: N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh

When: January

What to know: The annual festival features performers, demonstrations, storytellers and presentations that explore North Carolina’s rich Black history. A Virtual Education Day with resources and videos was added in 2022.

More information: ncmuseumofhistory.org/learn/museum/festivals

N.C. Rice Festival

Where: Leland

When: Late February/early March

What to know: The festival — sponsored by the town of Leland, Brunswick County and the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site — is in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. It celebrates a community of formerly enslaved West Africans, who had the skill and knowledge of rice cultivation.

More information: https://www.northcarolinaricefestival.org

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