“I couldn’t think of a greater place to celebrate Black history than within a place of knowledge,” Damali says about her bookstore. In business since 1989 and one of a few remaining Black-owned bookstores in the city, Damali frequently hosts author signings and book readings, including an upcoming event for Rev. Al Sharpton’s latest book this February.
With the renewed spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement, Damali has welcomed both a surge in support for Black-owned bookstores and a growing interest in reading materials on race and culture.
“Everybody’s trying to understand race relations and understand how to better treat one another and to grow through all of this racism,” she says.
When asked for a few recommended readings to celebrate this month, the author and bookshop owner offers:
“‘The Mis-Education of the Negro,’ by Carter G. Woodson. I will suggest books like ‘Destruction of Black Civilization” [by Chancellor Williams],” she advises. “I would mention books like ‘Stamped,’ dealing with race relations. And if I have another choice, I would say something like the book called ‘PowerNomics’ in terms of economic empowerment.”
Medu Bookstore, Greenbriar Mall, 2841 Greenbriar Pkwy. SW, Atlanta. 404-346-3263, medubookstore.com.
The APEX Museum is intentional about shaping the narrative that Black history doesn’t begin with slavery. In their permanent exhibit, “Africa the Untold Story,” visitors can learn the history of ancient African civilization.
For those interested in local area history, the museum also exhibits the Black experience in Georgia — with everything from slavery documents and artifacts to a standing replica of a Black-owned pharmacy, which served as a staple of the Black community in 1920s Atlanta. Due to COVID, visitors are admitted during time slots, and advanced online purchase is recommended.
Starting at $8. APEC Museum, 135 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-523-2739, apexmuseum.org.
Sweet Auburn District
After the APEX, continue your journey through history with a literal stroll down Auburn Avenue. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Sweet Auburn District was a center for Black commerce and one of the wealthiest African American communities in the nation during the early 20th century.
Among those earlier prominent businesses was the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Today, visitors can make a quick stop to view the outside of the ALI building, which was founded in 1905 by sharecropper-turned-businessman, Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta’s first black millionaire. Known for its community activism and contributions to building Black wealth, the ALI was widely viewed as a cornerstone of the district.
Before leaving Auburn, consider paying your respects to a few civil rights legends. The mural of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (at the corner of Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and Auburn Avenue) was already a popular photo stop prior to his passing last summer; it’s now sure to remain a memorial attraction. Just a block down, at Bell Street and Auburn, you can also visit the mural of the late Evelyn Lowery, a champion of equal rights and the wife of the late civil rights icon Rev. Joseph P. Lowery, who passed away in March 2020.
King Center, King Birth Home and Ebenezer Baptist Church
Continuing down Auburn Avenue, you’ll find the King Center. Outside the Center, you can view the marble crypts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife and fellow freedom fighting legend Coretta Scott King. Then, visit the Center for a deeper look into the legacy of King and his lifelong quest for civil rights.
Next, view the birth home of King, which is also on Auburn Avenue. Lastly, visit the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father preached. The church now has new historical significance as its latest senior pastor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, recently became the first Black senator from the state of Georgia.
The King Center, 449 Auburn Ave. NE Atlanta, 404-526-8968, thekingcenter.org; King’s Birth Home, 501 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-331-6922; Ebenezer Baptist Church (Heritage Sanctuary), 407 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-331-6922.
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
While the museum is dedicated to exploring the fight for human rights and equality all around the world, the site offers a thorough showcase of the American civil rights movement through a series of photos, videos and interactive displays. There are even a few interesting moments of local Black history depicted in the museum, including features on local leaders and how Atlanta-based businesses contributed to civil rights efforts in the city.
National Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allan Jr. Blvd., Atlanta. civilandhumanrights.org.
Atlanta History Center
During Black History Month, the Atlanta History Center is hosting virtual talks with acclaimed authors like Imani Perry, author of “South to America.”
On site through March 23, guests of the Atlanta History Center can see the “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” exhibit, which explores our future and ability to move forward as a united country. As an online-only exhibit, visitors can tour “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” which “explores the African American struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the 50 years following the Civil War.”
Tickets start at $9.80. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW., Atlanta. 404-814-4000, atlantahistorycenter.com.
Screening from your own home
Because of COVID-19, we’re all spending more time socially distancing in our own homes. Fortunately, you don’t have to leave your house to celebrate Atlanta Black history. Thanks to streaming platforms, the stories of some of the city’s legendary trailblazers are available to watch from the comfort of your couch.
Check out the documentary “Maynard” to learn about the life and work of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Holbrook Jackson. Also, watch “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” another insightful documentary that explores the late Georgia representative’s long career as a social activist.
For a couple of Black history biopics, check out “42,” which was partially filmed in Atlanta and stars the late actor Chadwick Boseman as baseball icon and Georgia native Jackie Robinson. Also, consider watching (or re-watching) “Selma,” which chronicles the events leading up to King’s historic march to Selma, Alabama, that sparked the passing of the Voting Rights Act.