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    National Civil Rights Museum # 3 on 10 best places where black history comes alive from USA Today

    By:
    Larry Bleiberg

     

    Black history is celebrated every February, but the story of African Americans is told year-round at many institutions. "Museums give us an opportunity to reflect that African-American history is American history," says Robert Luckett, an assistant professor and director of the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University in Mississippi. He shares some standout sites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
     
    Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
    Alabama
    This museum was one of the first in the nation to preserve and commemorate the history of the modern civil rights movement. The building chronicles the Freedom Rides, the Children's March and other key historic moments. It's located in the heart of the city's Civil Rights District, across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed in a Sunday morning bombing. 205-328-9696; bcri.org
     
    Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum
    Kansas City, Mo.
    These two museums in the same building touch on everyday life. The baseball museum not only honors top players, it also explores the role the league played in communities. And while the jazz museum looks at musicians of all races, the style is very much rooted in African-American history, Luckett says. 888-221-6526, nlbm.com; 816-474-8463; americanjazzmuseum.org
     
    National Civil Rights Museum
    Memphis
    This is one of several museums that resonate with what Luckett calls "the incredible power of place." The site is built around the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968, and also includes the boarding house from which his assassin, James Earl Ray, fired the shot. "To look out the window is eerie," he says. The institution is in the midst of an extensive renovation, which will be complete this spring. 901-521-9699; civilrightsmuseum.org
     
    DuSable Museum of African American History
    Chicago
    One of the nation's top museums of African-American history, the DuSable, which opened in 1957, is known for innovative exhibits like Red, White, Blue & Black: A History Of Blacks In The Armed Services. "This is the crown jewel of African-American museums in the country. They do really impressive work," Luckett says. 773-947-0600; dusablemuseum.org
     
    Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
    Detroit
    The nation's largest black history museum schedules a full slate of programming from exhibits on African Americans in science to a film series about liberation. "It's a real leader in the field and a must-see when you're in Detroit," Luckett says. 313-494-5800; thewright.org
     
    National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
    Cincinnati
    This impressive downtown museum sits on the Ohio River with a dramatic view of the waterway that represented freedom for runaway slaves fleeing from Kentucky on the south shore. "It's a remarkable story in our history," Luckett says. Exhibits include a slave pen and a film narrated by Oprah Winfrey. 877-648-4838; freedomcenter.org
     
    Museum of African American History
    Boston and Nantucket, Mass.
    One of two buildings that comprise the museum's Boston campus, the African Meeting House was built by black artisans and resonates with history, Luckett says. "It is a moving experience to stand in the same pulpit where Frederick Douglass stood. There's power in that." 617-725-0022; maah.org
     
    Museum of the African Diaspora
    San Francisco
    The institution is built around the idea that all humanity can trace its roots to the African continent. Exhibits focus on Africa's art, culture and global influence. "African history is really all our history," Luckett says. 415-358-7200; moadsf.org
     
    Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
    Baltimore
    This building's striking design was inspired by a slave ship. It was built by one the country's leading African-American architects, Philip G. Freelon, who's also planning the National Museum of African American History and Culture, now under construction on the Mall in Washington, D.C. 443-263-1800; rflewismuseum.org
     
    International Civil Rights Center & Museum
    Greensboro, N.C.
    One of the key moments in the civil rights movement occurred in 1960 when four college students staged a sit-in at a Woolworth counter after they were refused service because of their race. This well-designed museum is built on the site of the store and includes the actual fountain. "You can be in the place where all this happened," Luckett says. One of the activists, Franklin McCain, died last month. 336-274-9199; sitinmovement.org