13 Places to Learn About Black History in Seattle

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If you’re looking for a hands-on way to celebrate Black History Month with kids, consider taking a walking tour around Seattle. From museums and playgrounds, to important landmarks and art installations, these tour stops offer opportunities to learn about and deepen your understanding of African American history. Get your walking shoes on for this one!

Northwest African American Museum

25 years in the making, NAAM opened its doors to the public in 2008. Since then, its staff has educated visitors on the experiences of African Americans in the Northwest through art, music, craft, literature and history exhibits. Even the building itself—the former Colman School—is an important artifact. It was the first Seattle school to admit Black students. And before there was CHOP/CHAZ, the Colman School was occupied by community activists, who ran a makeshift museum on the property, for eight years.

Good to know: Although the museum is currently closed, families can stay connected to this important cultural institution through monthly story times, book giveaways and virtual exhibits.

2300 S. Massachusetts St.
Seattle, WA
Online: naamnw.org

Jimi Hendrix Park

Just outside NAAM, families will find Jimi Hendrix Park, a wide-open space that includes grassy fields, paved pathways and art that honors the groundbreaking, Seattle-born musician. While the park is a great spot to spy Hendrix lyrics and enjoy a picnic, families can head to the newly re-opened MoPOP to get the full story on Jimi and other important African American musicians.

2400 S. Massachusetts. St.
Seattle, WA
Online: seattle.gov

photo: courtesy Wa Na Wari

Wa Na Wari

Wa Na Wari, or “our home,” opened its doors in 2019 as a hub for Black art and culture in the Central District. It's a place for community members and families to enjoy art exhibits, concerts, film screenings and more. The home it’s housed in has been owned by the same family for five generations, and turning it into an artists’ space has allowed the property to remain Black-owned amid Seattle’s rising housing costs.

Good to know: Although Wa Na Wari isn’t currently open, families can still explore the outdoor art installation, take a virtual tour of the current exhibit and attend upcoming events online.

911 24th Ave.
Seattle, WA
Online: wanawari.org

Seattle Parks & Playgrounds

Sure, you might not pay attention to the names of the city parks and playgrounds you frequent, but now is a good time to add a brief history lesson to your play time at one of several parks that honor African Americans who called Seattle home. Some of our faves are Alice Ball Park, named after Seattle-born chemist, Alice Ball, who developed a treatment for leprosy. Families can also head to Flo Ware Park (pictured), named after this community activist who fought for educational equity and organized Seattleites to join the Poor People’s March in Washington, D.C. in the '60s. Or tell your kids about Dr. Blache Lavizzo, the first African American pediatrician in Washington state and Medical Director of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic. She started her practice in Seattle in 1956 and has a water feature and small park named after her.

photo: West McLean and Gordon Tribble

Vashon Remembrance Project

Hitch a ride with a ferry to explore the Vashon Remembrance Project with your family. It’s an outdoor art installation that features 24 portraits of people of color who were killed by law enforcement. You can learn more about their personal stories by scanning the QR code found beneath each painting. The portraits will be on display through the end of this month (at least), and you can tune in to a virtual discussion with the artist on February 11.

Vashon Center for the Arts
19600 Vashon Hwy. S.W.
Vashon Island, WA
Online: vashonremembers.org

L.E.M.S. Bookstore

After a successful GoFundMe campaign, L.E.M.S. (Life Enrichment Bookstore) re-opened a few months ago. One of just two black-owned bookstores in the state, L.E.M.S. has been a cornerstone of the African American community in Seattle for over 20 years. In addition to selling books, it has played host to church services, Kwanzaa celebrations and cultural events that bring community together. In its latest iteration, it will also house Safe and Sound, a studio space where females can learn about and create music.

5023 Rainier Ave. S.
Seattle, WA
Online: sites.google.com/keytechlabs.org/lemsbookstore/home

photo: courtesy SAM

Seattle Art Museum

SAM re-opens to the public on March 5, 2021, the same day the new Jacob Lawrence exhibit begins. Lawrence and his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight, moved to Seattle in the 1970s when Lawrence accepted a teaching position at UW. The new exhibit gives visitors a chance to see Lawrence’s 30-panel series, Struggle… From the History of the American People together again for the first time since 1958. Get your tickets now, and while you wait, check out paper artist Barbara Earl Thomas’ compelling exhibit that examines the complexity of race as it relates to childhood.

1300 First Ave.
Seattle, WA
Online: seattleartmuseum.org

photo: iStock

Black Lives Matter Mural

Finding art around the city is always worth it. This month, why not visit the Black Lives Matter mural downtown? Head to Capitol Hill (it's on Pine between 10th and 11th) to see the mural painted by the Vivid Matter Collective.

photo: iStock

First African Methodist Episcopal Church

While you’re in Capitol Hill, stop by Seattle’s first Black church—First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME). The church was established in 1886, and churchgoers held Sunday School at various members’ homes. It was designated a Seattle Landmark in 1984.

1522 14th Ave.
Seattle, WA

Kreielsheimer Place

If you’ve been to the ACT Theatre, you’ve visited the Eagles Auditorium and possibly not known it. Back in the day, Eagles Auditorium was one of the few places Martin Luther King spoke on his one and only trip to Seattle in November, 1961. Today, the building is known as Kreielsheimer Place, and it houses, in addition to apartments, the ACT’s five performance spaces on its ground floor. The next time you're there, look for the bust of Dr. King (outside the Allen Theatre) that commemorates his visit.

1416 7th Ave.
Seattle, WA
Online: acttheatre.org

photo: By Kevin Scott, photo courtesy of Community Roots Housing

Liberty Bank Building

Pick up dinner from Communion in the new Liberty Bank Building and learn about the first Black-owned bank in Seattle. The Liberty Bank opened in 1968 on 24th Ave. & E. Union Street. It was an important resource for African Americans who were denied loans from Seattle’s mainstream banks that followed redlining practices. The courtyard plaque can fill you in on the whole story.

2320 E. Union St.
Seattle, WA
Online: libertybankbuilding.org

photo: Jojo M. via yelp

August Wilson Way Portal

Because a trip to City Center is always worth it, make a point to find the August Wilson Way Portal, behind the Rep. The 12-foot high arch and red door pay tribute to the playwright, who lived out his final years in the Emerald City. Wilson staged many of his well-known plays, that chronicle the experiences of African Americans in each decade of the 20th century, at the Rep.

Seattle Center
Warren St., outside the Seattle Rep
Seattle, WA
Online: seattlecenter.com

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

Host of the annual Seattle Black Film Festival, the non-profit, Langston, works to promote Black brilliance in the Seattle art scene. Another hub for creativity in a city that boasts many, families can find virtual programming that includes a Fade to Black film series, book launches and more while the center is currently closed to visitors.

104 17th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA
Online: langstonseattle.org

—Allison Sutcliffe


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