• 66°

Walking tours return soon as spring beckons

It feels like spring is really here lately and it’s been a wonderful time to walk on the waterfront and meet new people, see old friends and spend time at the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.

After being closed for a year because of Covid-19, it’s nice to prepare the museum for visitors.  Milt and I have enjoyed the tourists and locals who have stopped by recently wanting to know more about the history we share.  We tell them we share that history on walking tours as well.

I am pleasantly surprised by the tourists who plan to return to Washington and join one of our tours.  Since I’ve started writing this column, the feedback has been wonderful, and most readers want more information about our walking history tours that I’ve mentioned in past columns.

The tours started in July 2010.  We cover local Black history from 1750 to 1950.

Our museum volunteers do several a year.  Most of time we dress as 18th century characters and we often will stop to sing and dance to convey special events we want to highlight.

‘The River That Brought Us Here and Blessed Us Here’ is our signature tour. It was filmed by Emmy Award winning TV and movie producer Clay Johnson for PBS North Carolina Weekend.

The tour begins at the Lighthouse on Stewart Parkway, goes along Main Street from Gladden to Bonner Streets and covers history from 1750 to 1865.

“Millionaires Row” is about the businesses, schools, Green Book locations, and the medical, legal and educational professions of the Black residents who lived on Gladden Street from Main to Ninth Streets (Fort Washington.)

‘The Land That Liberty Built’ covers Bridge Street from Main Street to Fairview Cemetery (Beebe Park).

‘Black Owned Businesses on Main Street From 1863 to 1950’ covers Main Street from Van Norden to Bonner Street.

‘The All Around Town Tour’ covers Keysville, Cedar Hill Cemetery, historic churches and landmarks including many that are long gone such as Washington’s two Rice Mills, St. John The Divine Catholic Church, Hull Anderson’s shipyard, Cedar Grove Plantation, The Mulberry Market and many other locations with dynamic African American history.

Keysville, Cedar Hill Cemetery and Cedar Grove Plantation are not walking to the destination tours. Participants must drive to meet at specific locations such as Cedar Hill Cemetery and the tour begins there.

The tours are free, but donations are welcomed.

We are currently developing new tours as we are always uncovering more history we’d like to add.

The walking tours start Memorial Day weekend and there will be special tours for Washington’s Juneteenth Celebration June 19th being planned by other groups.

In conjunction with the Juneteenth celebration, there will be the Historic Turnage Theater premier of The Freedom of North Carolina movie, a film by eastern NC producer and director James Jones, along with other city- wide events. Part of the movie was filmed at the Underground Railroad Museum and Goose Creek State Park.

Washington has so much history that includes everyone.  Get out there this spring and summer and enjoy all of it.