The history of the city of Washington, DC mirrors that of the nation for which it is the capital, and this perhaps is best seen in the history of the African-American civil rights movement. From the Underground Railroad to the historic March on Washington, there are hundreds of sites both large and small that tell the history of African Americans in the United States. If you only have a day or two though, make sure to include these important spots.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The newest additional to the National Mall, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened to the public in 2011 on the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The centerpiece for the 4-acre memorial is based on a line from King's "I Have A Dream" speech: "Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope." A 30 foot-high relief of King named the "Stone of Hope" stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the "mountain of despair." Visitors literally "pass through" the Mountain of Despair on the way to the Stone of Hope, symbolically "moving through the struggle as Dr. King did during his life.” The memorial is located in West Potomac Park that borders the Tidal Basin, southwest of the National Mall.
One of the most iconic sites in the District, it was from these steps that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 during the rally at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King delivered the speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters who had come in from around the country to call for an end to racism in the United States. The speech wasn't just instrumental in the African-American civil rights movement, but is typically named one of the most important speeches in the history of the United States. The memorial stands in West Potomac Park at the end of the National Mall and is open 24 hours a day to the public.
Frederick Douglass Historic Site
Located in the Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast Washington, the site preserves the home and estate of Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent African Americans of the 19th century. After escaping slavery, Douglass became a leader of the abolitionist movement and served as one of the greatest spokesmen of the African-American civil rights movement. His writings shed light on the reality of the slave experience and brought a human face to the importance of the abolitionist movement in the United States. The Historic Site is located near a metro station but due to high crime in the area the National Park Service recommends that visitors take a taxi to visit the site.
African American Civil War Museum and Memorial
This nondescript memorial located in Northwest Washington commemorates the service of African-American soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union in the Civil War. The sculpture The Spirit of Freedom, a 9-foot bronze statue was completed in 1997. The memorial includes a walking area with curved panel short walls inscribed with the names of the men who served in the war. The complex is located at the eastern entrance to the U Street Metro station and is across the street from the museum. The museum gives visitors the chance to better understand the stories of the soldiers through displays featuring photographs, newspaper articles, and replicas of period clothing. Both the Memorial and the Museum are located in the U Street Corridor, the traditional heart of the African-American community in Washington, DC. What other sites would you add to this list?