A Timeless Legacy: African-American History
Since before the founding of our nation, African Americans have played a vital role in creating what would become Newport News, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States. The black history of Coastal Virginia goes back to the early 1500s, creating a timeless legacy that can be felt throughout the region.
To visit all of the locations below in the most efficient way possible, we put together an itinerary just for you.
For a more in-depth look at the locations below, please download our African-American History brochure.
James A. Fields House
James A. Fields (1844 - 1903) was born a slave in Hanover County and escaped slavery by finding refuge at Fort Monroe in Hampton. His restored home is historically significant for its long association with the development of the social and civic life of the African-American community in Newport News. Click here for admission and tour details.
The Newsome House Museum & Cultural Center
This is the restored 1899 residence of J. Thomas Newsome, born in 1862 to former slaves. Newsome attended law school at Howard University and later became a respected attorney, journalist, churchman and civic leader in Newport News. Click here for more information.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza
This highly visible site (see above) honors the legacy of Dr. King, who visited Newport News in 1958 and 1962 and spoke at the historic First Baptist Church of Newport News. You can find the plaza and sculpture at the corner of Jefferson Ave and 25th St.
Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center
Next to the library named in honor of Pearl Bailey (who was born in 1918 in Newport News), visit this cultural arts center that features the Anderson Johnson Gallery and the Ella Fitzgerald Theater. Fitzgerald was also born in Newport News, one year earlier than Pearl Bailey, in 1917. Click here for more information.
USS Monitor Center at The Mariners' Museum & Park
Learn about Siah Carter, a courageous runaway slave who became a permanent crew member of the USS Monitor. He remained in the Union Navy even after the ship's sinking. Click here for more information.
Slave quarters were scattered around the vicinity of the house, and there are anecdotal references to a slave graveyard near the spring. On the eve of the Civil War, records indicate 12 slaves living at Endview. In early 1864, the federal government confiscated the plantation and relocated seven African-American families to farm the site. At the end of the year, the property was returned to the original owners, and the former slaves living there were forced to leave. Click here for more information.
Lee Hall Mansion
Prior to the Civil War, 38 enslaved African Americans labored at Lee Hall. Their descendants - as well as other African Americans, Native Americans, and European cultures on Virginia's lower peninsula - have since produced a distinctive and vibrant cultural tapestry in Coastal Virginia. Click here to learn more.
Other Historical Locations
- Cornelius & Carrie R. Brown Education Center
- First Baptist Church of Newport News
- Pearl Bailey Public Library
- Smith's Pharmacy
- Virginia War Museum - Black Soldier Gallery
- Young's Mill
Notable Newport News Natives
- Ella Fitzgerald - Jazz singer, "First Lady of Song" and "Queen of Jazz"
- Walter Bowser - Huntington High School quarterback, multi-sport athlete, and the state's first black player of the year selected by the Virginia Sports Writers and Sportscasters Association
- Pearl Bailey - Actress and singer
- Doris Miller - U.S. Navy cook awarded the Navy Cross, namesake for the Doris Miller Community Center
- L. Adrian Fleming-Poe - First African-American woman lawyer in Virginia
- Elder Anderson Johnson - Folk artist with a permanent exhibit at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center
- Thaddeus Hayes - Legendary dancer who is the namesake of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center Thaddeus Hayes Dance studio
- Jessie Rattley - Former Mayor of Newport News; First African American to be elected to Newport News City Council
- Robert (Bobby) Scott - U.S. Representative for Virginia's 3rd Congressional District
- Mike Tomlin - Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers; Super Bowl winner
- Antoine Bethea - Former safety for the Indianapolis Colts; Super Bowl winner
- Aaron Brooks - Former quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders
- Michael Vick - Former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles
- Victor Wooten - Musician; Bassist for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; Winner of 5 Grammy Awards
- Joseph Wooten - Musician; Keyboardist for the Steve Miller Band
- Roy Wooten (Future Man) - Musician; Drummer and user of the "Drumitar" - a guitar synthesizer customized to make percussion sounds
It's February, the month of "love." Have you given any thought to how you're going to share that love with the person who matters most to you? Are you looking for a romantic spot to pop the question? ... From live theater and musical productions to lectures and an exhibition by a local photographer, Newport News has a number of ways to celebrate the African-American experience to commemorate Black His... Anyone who knows anything about Newport News knows that our city was the birthplace of famous women like Ella Fitzgerald, also known as “The First Lady of Song,” and the Tony Award-winning Pearl Baile...
It's February, the month of "love." Have you given any thought to how you're going to share that love with the person who matters most to you? Are you looking for a romantic spot to pop the question? ...
From live theater and musical productions to lectures and an exhibition by a local photographer, Newport News has a number of ways to celebrate the African-American experience to commemorate Black His...
Anyone who knows anything about Newport News knows that our city was the birthplace of famous women like Ella Fitzgerald, also known as “The First Lady of Song,” and the Tony Award-winning Pearl Baile...