African American History
African American History Tours
Since its creation in 1786, Columbia has featured a large African American population whose labor, skills, and vision have been integral in the city’s physical, spiritual, and social evolution. During the course of four centuries, Columbia’s black community transformed itself from that of a predominately enslaved population to a society whose members overcame the restrictions of Jim Crow and charted the course of the Civil Rights era. Join us on a tour to learn their names, their stories, and their legacies.
Historic House Museums
We offer house tours Wednesday - Saturday between 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. and on Sunday between 1:30 - 3 p.m. All tours are guided and begin at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, located at 1616 Blanding Street.
Home to the same entrepreneurial African American family for nearly 130 years, tours of this house museum trace the journey of Columbia’s African American community from enslavement through urban renewal.
The Museum of Reconstruction
at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home
The Museum of Reconstruction at the Woodrow Wilson Family Home is the nation's only museum dedicated to interpreting the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and is housed in South Carolina's only remaining presidential site. Through a multifaceted interpretation, the Museum of Reconstruction preserves and interprets Columbia’s 19th century history to dispel the myths of Reconstruction that are so prevalent in society today.
One of Columbia's oldest remaining structures, the Hampton-Preston Mansion explores the lives of the enslaved workers who ensured the antebellum estate’s daily operation and their planter-class owners, offering holistic insights into the site and the institution of slavery that framed the South’s racial, social and economic character.
Bus & Walking Tours
Hop on a bus, take a walk with us, or explore Columbia’s African American history from the comfort of your couch through these tour options.
African American Sites Bus Tour
From the Mann-Simons Site, home of Celia Mann, a free-black midwife in antebellum Columbia, to the North Carolina Mutual Building, offices of the largest African American owned life insurance company in the United States, this tour explores houses, businesses and other sites important to the African American community. Largely comprised of sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this tour features locations that illustrate important events and little-known facts about Columbia's African American community.
Approximately 90 minutes.
Online Walking Tours
Explore our online tours of neighborhoods and districts central to Columbia’s African American history. Tours can be done on your computer or turn it into a walking tour using your mobile device. Select any of the neighborhoods below and begin your tour.
African American Heritage Sites
Over the course of four centuries, Columbia’s black community transformed itself from that of a predominately enslaved population to a society whose members overcame the restrictions of Jim Crow and charted the course of the Civil Rights era. The story of this journey remains today within the home places, workplaces, and resting places of Columbia’s African American community.
Established in the 1890s as the small African American suburb “Kendalltown,” this neighborhood was developed on land previously associated with Barhamville Academy, a female school in operation during the mid-eighteenth century.
Established as an agricultural area more than three centuries ago, Lower Richland features important sites documenting African American and American Indian experiences, including Congaree National Park.
Lower Waverly boasts diverse architectural styles and is protected as an architectural conservation district by the City of Columbia. This neighborhood was home to many professional and working-class African Americans who emerged as activists, educators and community leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
Waverly is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and is protected as an architectural conservation district by the City of Columbia. By the early twentieth century, this neighborhood became known as a self-contained, self-sustaining black community featuring many middle- and upper- class African American residents, among whom were leaders within spiritual, business, academic and professional circles.