by Dwight Brown, NNPA News Wire Travel Writer
Houston’s Long History of Black Folks
The African American population in Houston has been significant almost since the city was founded in 1836. These days the Black community comprise 22.83% of the population and has yielded two African American mayors: Lee Patrick Brown (1998 – 2004) and Sylvester Turner (2016 – 2022). And Houston has twice as many black residents as Atlanta. Come say hello!
FREEDMEN’S TOWN – Fourth Ward
Former enslaved people from Texas and Louisiana flocked to Houston’s 4th Ward establishing Freedmen’s Town in 1865. John Henry “Jack” Yates led the community, became the first minister of the city’s first black church and founder of the Houston Academy school. This vibrant neighborhood flourished up to the 1930s, much like NY’s Harlem. The district is now a treasured Nationally Registered Historic Landmark and Houston’s first Heritage District under the stewardship of the Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, marked by historic houses, museums and churches.
Visit Amazing Tourist Sights
There’s an entertaining mix of things to do in Houston, and much is centered around Black history or culture. From illuminating museums that preserve history to new cultural meccas.
- BUFFALO SOLDIERS NATIONAL MUSEUM Largest repository of African-American military history in the world. Revolutionary War, World Wars, etc.
- THE POST Former Barbara Jordan Post Office is now Houston’s newest cultural center. Rooftop garden, Skyfarm, food hall. Concerts at the 713 Music Hall (Lucky Daye, Jasmine Sullivan, Giveon).
Tips: Make a date to meet on the rooftop park at Post, have dinner at ChòpnBlọk and head to a concert by artists like Ludacris.
Get In Touch with Farm Life
Go off the beaten tourist path, feel your roots and get down to earth. Visit Black-owned farms. See fruit and vegetables planted, grown and harvested. Follow the food chain back to its sources and meet the forward-thinking farmers advancing agrarian life.
- SWEETWATER FARMS Explore this six-acre family-owned urban farm. It’s an oasis in the middle of a food desert. Agriculturist Chaz Daughtry shows students and tourists how healthy food choices can be grown and made. He’s also developed SoulFitGrill, a line of “healthy, soulful spices.”
- IVY LEAF FARMS, run by Ivy Walls, provides vegetables like collard greens (Georgia, Champions) and okra (Green Velvet, Burgundy) to local Black chefs that prefer home grown produce. Roam through a pumpkin patch and feel the ground below. Support share programs that provide free veggies to those in need.
Tips: Farm visits are by reservation only, so reach out before your trip to confirm date, time and accessibility.
Gaze At Houses of Art
Artists’ interpretations of life, culture and history are on view around Houston. Curators are shepherding painters and sculptors and opening galleries that keep African diaspora heritage alive and introduce visitors to the latest visions from talented artists.
- COMMUNITY ARTISTS’ COLLECTIVE The cultural collective champions African American artists and links them with their communities. Popular exhibitions feature emerging and experienced talent. Art becomes more accessible to children and adults through enlightening educational programs.
- PROJECT ROW HOUSES Non-profit org in Houston’s historic Third Ward, encompasses five city blocks and 39 structures. The row house provides exhibit space for artists’ installations. Art programs and neighborhood activities abound.
- MODERN ART GALLERY (The MAG) Former Texaco office building turned into Downtown art gallery courtesy of creative directors Maya Prince and Emmanuel Alia who run the design studio Prauper. Majestic cement floors and walls frame art shots. It’s almost like walking around an urban ruin.
Tips: At CAC your support can make a big difference. To invest in their community development programs you can donate. The Mag hours: Wed – Sun from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Eat Out and Meet Town Folks
Dine around town. Explore Black restaurants that serve the latest cuisine from top chefs and restauranters. Mingle with the locals as you wine, dine and feast on desserts.
- THE BREAKFAST KLUB A Houston institution that attracts people from across the United States who love the southern-inspired dishes: Wings & Grits or Biskits & Gravy.
- JUNETEENTH JUBILEE DINNER A multi-course dinner. Brainchild of “Top Chef” Chef Dawn Burrell. Growers, purveyors, winemakers, and distillers attend.
- HOUSTON THIS IS IT SOUL FOOD Classic comfort food diner (circa 1959). Owner Craig Jacobs carries on grandparents’ legacy. Near Texas Southern Univ.
- LOST & FOUND Sip on a cocktail at this popular bar. Enjoy the patio views of downtown. Drinks are just $5 during happy hour, so bring a friend.
Tips: Munch on Wings & Waffles at TBK. Eat the Mac & Cheese at This Is It. Drink a Golden Cadillac (Tequila, Cognac, House Pineapple Syrup + Lime+ Grand Marnier) at Lost & Found.
Come to HTX’s Annual Juneteenth Celebrations
Juneteenth was born in Galveston on June 19,1865 when it was announced that all enslaved Texans were free. Since then, Texans have honored this important date in history with musical events, art exhibits, special dinners, and more.
- JUNETEENTH AT EMANCIPATION PARK The two-day annual festival is held on a 10-acre park, which was purchased by former enslaved men determined to celebrate emancipation. The event features musical performances, children’s activities, community vendors…
- THE JOURNEY TO FREEDOM Celebration at Miller Outdoor Theater. Features story-telling journeys with visuals, educational narrations, live music and dance.
- GALVESTON ISLAND Tour to birthplace of Juneteenth, where Union troops announced end of slavery in Texas: Proclamation Reading, Guided Freedom Tours, Nia Cultural Center & Equality Mural, Juneteenth Parade…
Tips: Tributes include nod to Al Edwards, father of Juneteenth who pushed for state holiday. Also acknowledge work of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Senator John Cornyn who advocated for federal holiday.
Make Your Hotel Your Sanctuary
Choose from the intimacy of small inn to conveniently located hotels or the opulence of chic see-and-be-seen resort-style lodging.
- LA MAISON IN MIDTOWN Owners Genora Boykins & Sharon Owens manage this stately, lush, Black-owned seven-room B&B. In the walkable Midtown district.
- BLOSSOM HOTEL HOUSTON 267-room hotel in heart of Houston Medical District. Nespresso machines, marble baths. Easy Uber ride to just about everywhere.
- THE POST OAK AT UPTOWN HOUSTON Lush AAA Five Diamond hotel. Includes Rolls-Royce showroom, 30K-bottle wine collection, 20K-square-ft. spa.
Tips: The Midtown neighborhood is filled with restaurants, night clubs and a park. The Blossom has a rooftop pool. The Post Oak may have the toniest brunch scene in town.
Travel to Houston to see Black life in all its magic.
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