Want to participate in racial justice activism and road-trip at the same time? Well look no further! We compiled a list of places that are of particular importance to civil rights history in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, learning about history through travel can have a huge impact in furthering racial equality. Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black history, thought so too. He believed that history can be used to prove that Black Americans have played important roles in society, and this acknowledgement leads to equality.
According to Zachary Stocks, the executive director of Oregon Black Pioneers, many sites with historical significance for Black people have been demolished or repurposed. However, there are some sites that do still exist. These sites, which deserve visitation and recognition, reside throughout the PNW. Whether you are looking for a day trip or searching for places to add to your road trip itinerary, these spots are easy to get to and great to add to your travel bucket list!
- Want to walk the steps that Martin Luther King Jr. did? Make a stop at Vancouver Ave First Baptist Church. A self-proclaimed church for everyone, the establishment has demonstrated a deep commitment to civil rights. King, along with John Lewis, Reginald Wilkins, and Jesse Jackson have all spoken there, says Stocks. Address: 3138 N Vancouver Ave, Portland, OR 97227
- The First A.M.E. Zion Church is another church worth visiting. “The A.M.E. church is Portland’s oldest Black church and has been a center for civil rights organizing,” says Stocks. The church was even involved in abolishing slavery and took a role in the Underground Railroad. Address: 4304 N Vancouver Ave, Portland, OR 97217
- Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery: Over 40 Black people from the 19th century are interred here, many of whom are former slaves who traveled on the Oregon Trail, says Stocks. Due to its importance to the state of Oregon, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Address: Commercial St SE & Hoyt St SE, Salem, OR 97302
- Otto and Verdell Rutherford House: This house was home to generations of activists. When Otto and Verdell Rutherford lived there, they both worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP for short. In 1953, when they both worked there, the Oregon’s Public Accommodations Act was passed. The act stated that “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of this state shall be entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, resort or amusement, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, religion, color or national origin,” according to the Oregon History Project. The house itself served as a place of civil rights organizing during the 1940s and 1950s. As well, it was the first location for the NAACP Credit Union. Because of the history made in the home, it was the first property to be listed as a historic civil rights property in Oregon. The house is still owned by the family, so keep this in mind if you decide to visit the home from a respectful distance. Address: 833 Northeast Shaver Street, Portland, Oregon
- The Showbox Seattle: Duke Ellington, who was known for his influence on jazz music, once played here. It’s still an important place in the Seattle music scene, so post pandemic, grab yourself a ticket and experience music where Ellington once played. Address: 1426 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
- Jimi Hendrix Statue: There is a tribute to Jimi Hendrix in Seattle, his hometown. It is located at 1604 Broadway.
Fuel your adventures with food from Black owned restaurants.
- Jamaican Homestyle Cuisine offers authentic Jamaican food, available for delivery and pick-up. The spices are imported from Jamaica and the ingredients are locally sourced.
- Looking for a vegan treat? Blackstreet Bakery is not only Black-led, but they also work with the community to support Black people. Started by the organization, Brown Hope, Blackstreet Bakery helps to provide Black people with economic opportunity.
- Feeling like African food? Akadi should be your next meal. A restaurant that serves West African food, the eatery was started by Fatou Ouattara who learned to cook in Cote D’Ivoire. There are plenty of vegetarian options in addition to meat-based meals, and currently they are open for take out and delivery.
- How about Caribbean food? Try Jerk Shack! The food is inspired by the owner and chef’s Jamaican heritage, and recipes are made from scratch.
- For a cafe eating experience, try Amy’s Marketo. It is an Ethiopian Restaurant with plenty of vegetarian and other healthy options. They even have a wide selection of vegan desserts!
- Feel like eating in? Have farm fresh food delivered to you, with Local Yokels.
Prefer to take a virtual trip during these pandemic times?
- The Northwest African American Museum in Seattle is temporarily closed but is offering virtual exhibitions and events.
Want to take your road trip adventures one step further? Post your stories on social media to share Black history with your friends and followers.
Image by 400tmax