I have always been fascinated with Black history and like to point out that it is truly American history. Wilmington is a city in southeastern North Carolina full of culture and coastal charm. It is an integral part of Black History and has played a pivotal role in the landscape of American History. I grew up in Wilmington and more than five generations of my family are from this area. I am intrigued by the rich past of Wilmington that has often been omitted. The more I learn the more there is to know, including those bright and dark moments. There are a variety of ways to participate and learn about the vast history and heritage of African Americans, and I recommend that everyone begin that journey for themselves. You can take the first step by participating in guided and self-guided tours, and visiting local museums, attractions, and events.
BLACK HISTORY TOURS:
The African American Heritage Foundation of Wilmington offers two virtual tours with downloadable maps: Heart and Soul and Travel through History.
A Guide to Wilmington’s African American Heritage is a free online guide with 37 sites, including: 1898 Monument & Memorial Park, Orange Street Landing on Cape Fear (a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site), the Wilmington Journal, and historically significant homes, churches, cemeteries, schools, businesses, and markers.
Journey Wilmington African-American History Tours offers four by-request, advance reservation tours: 1898 Wilmington Massacre and Coup; Southside Legacy; Sugar Hill Neighborhood; and a citywide tour. To schedule, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WilmingtonNColor Shuttle Tours, beginning Summer 2021, specialize in the history of the only successful coup d'état on U.S. soil that took place in Wilmington in November 1898. For details visit the WilmingtoNColor website.
Cape Fear Museum of History & Science’s (814 Market St., Wilmington) Cape Fear Stories exhibit interprets the region’s rich and complex history, including experiences of African Americans. The museum offers educational programs, resources, traveling exhibits, and ongoing exhibits that explore Black History.
Cameron Art Museum (3201 S. 17th St., Wilmington) is a cultural gathering place that is home to the Minnie Evans Study Center, an archive and research repository for the N.C. folk artist’s work. The museum was built on the site of the Battle of Forks Road, a Civil War skirmish whose victory was won by the United States Colored Troops (USCT). A prominent USCT Sculpture Project will be unveiled during CAM’s Living History weekend (November 13-14, 2021).
Bellamy Mansion Museum of History & Design Arts (503 Market St., Wilmington) was built by free and enslaved Africans. Its grounds include two 2-story brick structures: a reconstructed carriage house and restored urban slave quarters.
Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts/City Hall (310 Chestnut St., Wilmington) was built by free and enslaved African craftsmen. Many famous African Americans have appeared on stage, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass; educator Booker T. Washington; singers Marian Anderson, Ethel Waters, and opera soprano Caterina Jarboro.
Poplar Grove Plantation (Hwy. 17 in Scotts Hill, NC), formerly a sweet potato and peanut plantation, is part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Tours and exhibits explore Gullah Geechee history as it relates to the Black families who lived and worked there.
1898 Monument and Memorial Park (1074 N. 3rd St., Wilmington), dedicated in November 2008, was designed by Atlanta sculptor Ayokunle Odeleye. The monument memorializes the African Americans harmed by the violence of the 1898 insurrection and honors those who have continued work for racial progress.
“Black Lives Do Matter: End Racism Now” community art installation at Jervay Memorial Park (near the end of N. 4th Street, Wilmington).
Social Justice mural (Davis Street between 3rd and 4th streets, Wilmington).
North Carolina Black Film Festival is a four-day juried and invitational festival of independent motion pictures by Black filmmakers. The 2021 N.C. Black Film Festival (virtual) is February 25-28, 2021.