6 Historic Places Celebrating Black Entertainers and Artists

Whether it is inventing popular dance moves or creating an iconic tune, Black artists have been shaping the American experience for decades. Singers, actors, writers, and more have used their talents to create masterpieces still celebrated today. Places that represent these individuals can ensure that the legacy of their melodic lyrics, star performances, and insightful words lives on.

As a way of honoring these entertainers, this guide recognizes significant sites related to Black entertainers that have benefited from the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

  1. Southside Community Art Center (SSCAC) Chicago Illinois

    Photo By: Jacob Hand

    South Side Community Art Center

    This building, one of more than 100 art centers built during the Great Depression by the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project, was personally dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt. Located on the South Side of Chicago, the art center played a pivotal role in jumpstarting the careers of many Black artists such as Gordon Parks, Charles White, William Carter, and Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs during the 20th century. The building still serves as an artistic hub today, showcasing and connecting residents to art through exhibits, lectures, and other programming. Thanks to a grant from the the Action Fund, the Art Center rehabilitated its historic wood windows and is planning a full restoration of their historic building.

  2. Muddy Waters Mojo Museum Inc, Chicago, Illinois

    Photo By: Klein and Hoffman

    Muddy Waters House

    Known as the “Father of Modern Chicago Blues,” Muddy Waters lived in this home for 20 years. Waters’ 1889 home was often used as a rehearsal studio and a temporary stay for musicians, and now it will be transformed into a museum and community center. Led by Waters’ great-granddaughter, Chanda Cooper, the project is supported by a $50,000 grant from the National Trust to help stabilize the home of the six-time Grammy-award winning musician into the Muddy Waters MOJO Museum. The home-turned-museum will also include a small performance venue, community garden, and recording studio.

  3. Historic Roxbury

    Photo By: Alexa Carter

    Roxbury Cultural District

    The Historic Roxbury neighborhood is home to many historic places and landscapes that acknowledge Black American cultural heritage from the 20th and 21st century. With significant connections to jazz music and the Civil rRghts movement, the neighborhood boasts notable sites such as Hibernian Hall, Roxbury Heritage State Park, and Eliot Burying Ground. The district is in the process of elevating the arts through economic development, community programming, and more.

  4. National Center of Afro-American Artists, Roxbury, Massachusetts

    Photo By: Boston City Archive

    National Center of Afro-American Artists at Abbotsford

    Located in an 1872 High Victorian Gothic mansion, this center displays the finest Black visual arts from across the world. Founded by visionary arts leader Elma Ina Lewis in 1968, the NCAAA served as a place to exhibit professional programs in the visual and performing arts. Many famous figures such as Muhammad Ali, Eartha Kitt, and Nina Simone visited the center because of Lewis’ exemplary work. The National Trust is currently working with the center to replace its deteriorating roof in order to protect valuable collections and furnishings.

  5. Paul Robeson House exterior, Philadelphia.

    Photo By: Ekem/Wikimedia Commons

    Paul Robeson House and Museum

    An actor, orator, and humanitarian, Paul Robeson is often described as “an authentic American Hero.” The legendary figure had a career that spanned for almost 50 years as a star athlete and a prolific entertainer who played in such Broadway shows such as “Othello,” “Showboat," and “The Emperor Jones.” An all-around Renaissance man, Robeson broke major barriers in the music industry, becoming one of the “best-paid” performers in the country. Robeson stayed true to his roots celebrating Black history and standing firm on equal rights for Black Americans, to the point of sacrificing his career. Today, the house, owned and operated by the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, serves a museum and center for the community, celebrating Robeson’s life and legacy.

  6. Clifton House, Baltimore, Maryland

    The Clifton House

    The Clifton House is the home to the late, great African American poet laureate, Lucille Clifton. Clifton wrote many of her greatest pieces in the white-and-blue house, producing six poetry books and one memoir. Clifton received many accolades during her literary career, including becoming a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and an Emmy award winner. The home will be a place for many other artists to work on their craft, offering development and programming, as well as writer and artist residencies. The AACHAF grant from the National Trust will help support staffing and in-person and virtual program planning.

Brianna Rhodes is the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Editorial Fellow for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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