Amy Julia points to a map outside while her children gather around her and look at the map

Northern Civil Rights Tour

Where would you go in the Northeast to learn the story of Black Americans? (Really and truly–I’m looking for advice here.) 

This summer I’m planning to take our family on a tour of the northeast so that we can learn the history of this region and the ways enslavement, segregation, and injustice shaped and formed the economics and policies and opportunities of white Americans and people of color. 

Three years ago, our family traveled south to New Orleans (where Peter is from), Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama in order to visit the Whitney Plantation, various Civil Rights museums, and the EJI Museum and Memorial for Peace and Justice. (You can find an itinerary for this trip here—it was short and powerful and worked for our family when the kids were 13, 10, and 8.)

As much as I appreciated our time in those places, I also felt a growing sense of concern that we were teaching them that bad people did bad things a long time ago in a far away place. 

I knew enough to know that the legacy of people from New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts—where we live and where my family has lived for hundreds of years—held its own stories of harm and injustice. I wanted to take them to those places and teach them that history too.

Then the pandemic hit, and I am only now returning to this intention to learn as a family about the stories and people close by. It is easy for white people in the North to pat ourselves on the back for a legacy of abolition and for our participation in the Civil War. But there is far more to the story, and we need to reckon with the harm we have participated in if any healing is to come.

So…where should we go in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York? What do we need to see and learn? (And how about you—are there any local places you’d like to visit this summer with these questions in mind?)

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