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.

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To visit all of the locations below in the most efficient way possible, we put together an itinerary just for you.

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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.

Endview Plantation

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

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