The exterior view of the Motown Museum in Detroit.

The exterior view of the Motown Museum in Detroit. Credit: AP/Carlos Osorio

The Chicago area is undeniably teeming with the stories and contributions of historic African Americans, from the legacy of the Bronzeville neighborhood, to the DuSable Black History Museum and the Pullman National Monument.

But if you’re looking elsewhere, it’s just as easy to appreciate Black history in any number of Midwest destinations. Take in a show rooted in Black culture and make some memories of your own along the way this year.

Brooklyn & East St. Louis, Illinois

Home to Miles Davis, the stages where Tina Turner first performed, musician Steamboat Willie’s birthplace and Katherine Dunham’s lasting legacy, East St. Louis is splashed across the pages of Black history and the bios of some of America’s most influential cultural figures.

Dunham, a pioneering dancer and anthropologist who grew up in Chicago, settled in East St. Louis in the 1960s after bringing African and Afro-Caribbean dance to the world stage (and inspiring future dance icons such as Alvin Ailey and Eartha Kitt along the way). The Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities ( houses artifacts from her global travels and work — tours are available by appointment only.  It offers community dance and art classes, and alumni and devotees of the Dunham technique have gone on to work with nearby institutions just across the Mississippi River.

Just a 10-minute drive away is Brooklyn, Illinois, which vies for the title of oldest Black incorporated town in the United States. “Mother” Priscilla Baltimore is credited with founding the town with families of other free or formerly enslaved Black people from St. Louis in 1829. The local historical society recently built a marker to commemorate Brooklyn’s origins as a freedom village, which also became part of the Underground Railroad and home to the historic Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.


Almost every corner of Detroit is infused with Black history. Not to be missed is a selfie with The Fist, a monument to Detroit-raised boxer Joe Louis, and a visit to the often-overlooked WGPR-TV Historical Society Museum ( that commemorates the nation’s first Black-owned and operated television station.

The Motown Museum ( is reopen for tours after an expansion that includes a plaza with pop-up performances. The museum is located on the grounds of Motown Records, where music legends such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 got their start.

Nearby, the longtime home of Rosa Parks in the Wildemere Park neighborhood has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, but remains a private residence. You could stop by The Henry Ford Museum ( to see the bus Parks rode on that fateful day, but also be sure to visit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (, one of the largest African American history museums in the country.

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