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African-American Heritage Experience

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River Street.

In This Article

Categories: Things to Do

Day One

Immerse yourself in a black history tour
One of the best ways to explore Savannah's African-American heritage is by having a professional guide lead you through the city. Black history tours like Day Clean Journeys, Footprints of Savannah and the Freedom Trail Tour offer educational explorations of Savannah's black history, architecture, cemeteries and more throughout the Historic District and beyond.

Explore the historic First African Baptist Church
Visit the First African Baptist Church, home of the oldest black congregation in North America. At the time of its construction, the church’s mostly enslaved members worked on plantations surrounding the city by day and at night they were allowed to work on their church, completing the structure in 1859. Learn more about the First African Baptist Church here.

Glimpse into the past at the Owens-Thomas House
Owens-Thomas House visitors are guided through one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in America as well as the original slave quarters designed to house the enslaved men, women, and children who maintained it. The Owens-Thomas House slave quarters is complete with the nation’s largest expanse of slave-applied haint blue paint, made from indigo and thought to ward off evil spirits.

Honor ancestry at Laurel Grove Cemetery
Laurel Grove South is one of the most significant final resting places for African Americans who died in the 19th and 20th centuries. While slavery was still legal, there were more free African-Americans interred in Laurel Grove South than any other cemetery in the Southeast. 

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Day Two

Discover a museum
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is recognized as "Georgia's Official Civil Rights Museum." The museum encompasses three floors of photographic and interactive exhibits, including an NAACP Organization exhibit, a fiber optic map of 87 significant civil rights sites and events, a lunch counter where sit-ins occurred, and segregation exhibits.

Stop at the African-American Families Monument
This bronze and granite monument shows two adults and two children standing with broken chains at their feet. The base is inscribed with Maya Angelou’s words depicting the horrors of a slave ship voyage, but ends on a note of hope.

Step inside King-Tisdell Cottage
The historic King-Tisdell Cottage dates back to the 1890s. Take a journey to a time oft-forgotten in this historic house where the preservation of Savannah's African-American culture started. At this historic cottage, visitors can view historic maps of black neighborhoods during the Jim Crow era in Savannah.

Be inspired by a Gospel Dinner Cruise
On Monday evenings, Savannah Riverboat Cruises sets sail with uplifting sounds of Southern gospel music during the two-hour Gospel Dinner Cruise. Experience local Savannah gospel entertainers while enjoying a buffet filled with soul food favorites like Southern fried chicken, pulled pork barbecue, macaroni and cheese, Southern greens, sweet potatoes and more.


Day Three

Learn about Savannah's Gullah/Geechee Culture
Pin Point Heritage Museum, located in the old A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory, is your chance to experience the Gullah/Geechee culture first hand. The former factory has been transformed into an educational center for visitors to authentically learn about the Gullah/Geechee culture directly from residents who grew up in the small, close-knit community. 

Visit Georgia's Oldest Black School
Established in 1865 as a school for newly freed slaves, The Beach Institute is Georgia’s oldest still-standing school for blacks. Today, the Beach Institute is an African-American cultural center, flagship museum and gallery for traveling exhibitions, permanent collection exhibits, performances and lecture series highlighting black artists from Savannah and around the world.

Get a Taste of Savannah's Soul Food
Many of Savannah's restaurants have a focus in recipes influenced by African culture. Head to Sisters of the New South for soul food classics like ox tails, okra, fried chicken and red rice. Get your Southern barbecue fix at Walls BBQ, which serves savory eats like ribs, chopped pork sandwiches, deviled crabs and fried fish.

Explore the Massie Heritage Center
During the spring and summer of 1865, Massie Hertiage School served as a school for black children under the order of General Sherman. Today, the Massie Heritage Center has an interactive exhibit space and educational facility where both students and the general public can participate in interpretive programs that are designed to stimulate curiosity and to help achieve academic goals.

Plan Your Visit