Virginia represents the longest continuous experience of African American culture and life in the United States. In August of 1619, the first African slaves were brought to the shores of Jamestown—marking the start of centuries of unimaginable struggle and racism for African Americans in our country.
Over the past four centuries, countless Black men and women fought, and continue to fight, for equality, freedom, recognition and safety for themselves and future generations. During Black History Month, we take this opportunity to celebrate the historic contributions made by African Americans in our own community with our recommendations of where to see and hear the stories of these quiet, and not so quiet, revolutionaries.
Legacy Museum of African American History
The Legacy Museum of African American History is dedicated to collecting, preserving and storing historical artifacts, documents and memorabilia relating to the African American community in Lynchburg. The Legacy Museum typically has one main exhibit running at a time, with the current exhibit focusing on African American life during and after the Civil War. Past exhibits have included African American medicine, education and civic and social groups.
Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum
Anne Spencer was a poet, civil rights activist, teacher, librarian, wife, mother and gardener who lived in Lynchburg during the Harlem Renaissance cultural movement. As the first Virginian and first African American to have her poetry included in the highly influential the second poet to ever be included in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry, Anne Spencer was known for her poems with heavy biblical and mythological themes. During her life in Lynchburg, her home played host to Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Booker T. Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to name just a few.
African American gravesites at Old City Cemetery
The Old City Cemetery Museums & Arboretum is the oldest municipal cemetery still in use in Virginia today. With a sprawling 27-acres of gardens, history park and gravestones, Old City Cemetery is a must-visit for any history lover. The Cemetery was the primary burial site for those of African decent in Lynchburg from 1806 to 1865, with over 75 percent of the men and women buried there being African American. At that time, it was the only burial ground available to the Black community. There is no entrance fee to visit the cemetery, which is open year-round. Be sure to visit the outdoor exhibit chronicling an African American burial, which borrowed from African traditions. African American burial sites & notable graves are mapped out in a brochure available at the Old City Cemetery welcome center.
LYH Historic Marker Tour
In our LYH Historic Marker Guide, follow the yellow dots to find roadside markers recounting the accomplishments of Lynchburg African Americans who contributed to the fields of education, the arts and social activism. Of particular interest are the markers on the three blocks of Pierce Street from 12th to 15th Streets, which is also designated as the “Pierce Street Renaissance Historic District,” where there are more markers concentrated than any other town or city in Virginia.
Snap a photo of your visit at these significant sites and post to social media and tag @lynchburgva we’ll like and share!