Walk In The Footsteps Of Black Icons By Visiting These Places Around The World
Photo Credit: Cottonbro

Photo Credit: Cottonbro

Walk In The Footsteps Of Black Icons By Visiting These Places Around The World

cardiff , london , new york city , France , wales
Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones May 26, 2022

For some of us travel aficionados, walking in the footsteps of Black icons past and present is meaningful. Black people have made waves around the globe in innumerable ways. We carved communities for ourselves in other countries when racism in the United States made life unbearable. We revolutionized segments of the entertainment industry. We changed social and political landscapes. And so on.

As the summer approaches, you might be thinking about where you’d like to travel next. In the US alone, there’s no shortage of sites connected to Black history. If you decide to go overseas, you’ll find even more.

Here are some places you can visit where celebrated Black icons made their mark.

1. Various Parisian Cafes - James Baldwin And Richard Wright

Les Deux Magots, an iconic restaurant in St. Germain, was frequented by James Baldwin.

Exasperated with American racism, young Baldwin packed his bags and went to France. The change of environment did wonders for him mentally and creatively.

He also wrote at Le Select and Café de Flore, where he penned Go Tell It On The Mountain.

According to The New York Times, Baldwin composed an essay “which argued forcefully against the idea of the protest novel, claiming, among other things, that it was inherently sentimental, and therefore dishonest.”

It was this very essay which lead to a shouting match between him and another Black writer, Richard Wright.

All three cafes still exist today.

2. Moulin Rouge and The Panthéon, Paris - Josephine Baker

Born in Paris, Josephine Baker was a hit in Paris, with her finger waves, athleticism, and iconic banana skirt. She performed at Moulin Rouge in Montmartre in the 1950s to much fanfare.

What some don’t know is that in 1926, Baker founded her own cabaret, Chez Josephine, about a block from Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to visit it now, as it closed down many years ago.

Baker wasn’t just a performer; she was an anti-Nazi spy and philanthropist. She had a “Rainbow Tribe” of 12 adopted children of different ethnic backgrounds.

In 2021, Baker became the first Black woman and the first American to be inducted into the Panthéon. There is no higher honor in France, but her body remains in Monaco at her family’s request.

3. The Apollo, New York - Multiple People

 

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The Apollo in Harlem witnessed the performances of countless Black artists over the years.

Early luminaries included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Lena Horne.

The Apollo also helped enhance or launch the careers of Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

4. Cardiff, Wales - Shirley Bassey

If you ask somebody to name their top three Bond themes, Goldfinger from the 1964 film of the same name will likely be one of them.

Nobody could quite capture the high drama of the franchise as Shirley Bassey did. She’s the only singer to do more than one Bond theme. Her other songs include Moonraker and Diamonds Are Forever.

Bassey was born in the Welsh capital of Cardiff in 1937 and earned the title of Dame in 1999.

Cardiff is a friendly city, filled with pubs, a thriving indie food scene and museums. There’s also the famous castle which dates back to medieval times.

5. London - Claudia Jones and Frank Crichlow

 

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Trinidadian immigrants Frank Crichlow and Claudia Jones shaped London in different ways. They were part of the Windrush Generation of Caribbean immigrants who settled in Notting Hill and Brixton between the late 40s and into the 70s.

To calm racial tensions, Jones founded The Caribbean Carnival. We know it today as the Notting Hill Carnival – the largest and most vibrant celebration of Caribbean culture in London.

The Mangrove, which was founded by Frank Crichlow, no longer exists. It was not only a popular restaurant, but a site of refuge for the Caribbean community.

There is a blue plaque marking where the restaurant once stood.

6. Grant Park, Chicago - Barack Obama

 

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2008 was historic indeed. It was the year the United States elected its first Black president.

Barack Obama issued his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park in front of thousands of people. It was also viewed on television and online by millions more.

Grant Park is a staple in Chicago, with 350 acres of green space.

7. The Bob Marley Museum, Jamaica - Bob Marley

 

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Next time you’re in Jamaica, check out the home of the most famous Jamaican artist of all time. It’s now a museum.

According to the website: “All the original rooms have been kept as they were when Bob lived here to ensure authenticity. The displays include a life size three-dimensional hologram of Bob from the One Love Peace Concert in 1978, his Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, his personal recording studio, his bedroom, favorite clothing, a vast array of gold and platinum records received from all around the world, as well as the costumes of his back-up singers, the I-Threes.”

Tours are offered Monday through Saturday.

Related: Cameroonian Artist Fred Ebami Highlights Black Icons And Issues Through His Art

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