Day 1 You'll See:
- Bessie Smith Cultural Center
- Booker T Washington State Park
- Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
- Hunter Museum of American Art
- Bluff View Art District
Day 2 You’ll See:
- Tennessee Aquarium
- National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees
- Sallie Crenshaw Bethlehem Center
Southern Tennessee has so many historical and cultural landmarks to offer, it’s hard to find the time to see them all! Adventure Student Travel is here for you with the perfect two day plan to see the most impressive, relevant, and popular African American Heritage historical sites and landmarks. Along the way through the gorgeous Smoky Mountain battlefield sites, cultural landmarks, and history filled museums of Chattanooga you will have the chance to learn more about the local culture, take in the scenery, and eat the best Southern cuisine! The importance of cultural landmarks on the African American community in Tennessee is immense, as your group will soon see. There’s something for everybody in your group on this trip, and you are going to love the opportunity to relax and learn something new!
Bessie Smith Cultural Center- Begin your African American heritage trip around Tennessee with a visit to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. Opened originally in 1983 under the name of the Chattanooga African American Museum, later turned into the Bessie Smith Performance Hall, then finally the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, this institution was created for the compensation for American education failure and inclusion of the contributions of African Americans in history and culture. The Bessie is now aimed toward paying homage to the late Empress of Blues, the best classic blues singer of the 1920s, Bessie Smith. Today it is considered the premier interdisciplinary culture center, dedicated to culture, education, and art. The current main exhibit is dedicated to the son of a former slave and first classic opera singer to incorporate black spiritual elements into his music, called A Tribute to Roland Hayes. Before you leave be sure to check out the gift shop for the most authentic Southeast regional artisans handicrafts, such as ceramics, art, and jewelry.
Booker T Washington State Park- Next, stretch your muscles and get some fresh air at the Booker T Washington State Park in Harrison. Booker T Washington was born into slavery and freed by the age of nine, spending the rest of his life fighting for higher education. Best known as the Tuskegee Institution president, Washington advocated agriculture and education, as is seen wonderfully in this gorgeous 353 acre state park. Located on the shores of the Chickamauga Lake (810 miles of shoreline), this state park holds an Olympic sized swimming pool, 3 immense pavilions, 30 picnic sites, camping, birding, golf, horseback riding, and the most popular activities, fishing, hiking, and biking. Hike the 5 scenic miles, bike the 7 challenging miles, or fish the 35,000 acre lake full of crappie, catfish, and bass. Learn the history of Mr. Washington in further detail throughout this area, as well as the history of the park, originally segregated for blacks only until 1964. Whatever your group decides to do here, you will have a wonderful time taking in the natural scenery and historical facts!
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum- Created in 1961, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum features a historical collection meant for the presentation, operation, interpretation, and display of railroad artifacts in an authentic setting. Aiming to educate the public of the history of the "golden age of railroading" and development in the region, this museum experience will take you on a short ride on your choice of train that is packed full of historical facts and interesting stories. Choose between the Missionary Ridge Local, Chickamauga Turn, Hiwassee Loop, Copper Hill Special or Summerville Steam engine as you learn about the 1st rail line (Western and Atlantic) in the 1850s all the way to the demise of the track after introduction of interstates and air travel in the 1960s. Your group will be drowned in facts about the use of the railroad during the Civil War, the famous beginning of that catchy Glenn Miller Song, as well as the economic advantages of having this industrial hub in early Chattanooga. Buckle up and enjoy the afternoon as you ride the rails of essential Chattanooga history!
Hunter Museum of American Art- Perched atop a scenic 80 foot bluff on the edge of the Tennessee River, the Hunter Museum of American Art serves the Chattanooga community as a cultural center, historical mecca, and important skyline icon. As the museum likes to boast, “the panoramic views here are only equaled by the excellent collection of American art inside.” This museum is one of America’s finest and aims to understand American history and teach its guests about what makes us Americans today. Inside your group will see art ranging from the colonial period up to today, including paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media, furniture, and glass pieces. The artists range from Thomas Cole to Andy Warhol and the whole complex is filled to the brim with interesting American historical facts that were developed or affected by art. Particularly, within the 3 buildings that make up the Hunter Museum (1905 mansion, old and new galleries) your group will see 100 years of architecture, culture, and history of this region, including history of the Bluff Furnace, native american culture, and Civil War land usage here.
Bluff View Art District - Enjoy a relaxing evening stroll around the historic neighborhood downtown known as the Bluff View Art District. This, Chattanooga’s original art district, also sits high atop the stone cliffs above the Tennessee River, giving it spectacular scenic bluff top views. From here your group will be able to see the Tennessee River, downtown Chattanooga, and Walnut Street Bridge. The district itself features a few restaurants, a coffee house, an art gallery, a historic bed and breakfast, several gardens, plazas, and courtyards. The whole district will give your group a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation, as you decide to stroll around the award-winning River Gallery Sculpture Garden or explore the nationally recognized artists of the River Gallery. The district is dedicated to visual, horticultural, and culinary arts, as is made clear as you view their several dramatically landscaped gardens or eat the freshest ingredients at any of their local eateries. Your group will delight in this opportunity to relax and immerse themselves into the downtown culture.
Tennessee Aquarium- Get ready for quite the adventure at the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium. Built in 1992, this nationally acclaimed attraction is located on the downtown riverfront and features two different buildings, featuring two very different types of water species. Visit the River Journey building to learn about freshwater species, and the Ocean Journey building to learn about saltwater species. Start your visit in the River Journey building, where you will see otters, trout, alligators, catfish, and turtles. You’ll actually learn here that 25% of the continents freshwater species live here, in this area! Next head over to the Ocean Journey building and see the saltier side of things, complete with penguins, stingrays, butterflies, and a full coral reef featuring tons of fish and sharks. You can also check out the IMAX for an out of this world entertainment experience or even take a behind-the-scenes tour in which you will get to feed the animals with the staff! Protip for this location: download the free Tennessee Aquarium App on your smartphone to get complete showtimes, event schedules, maps, and tickets!
National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees- The base of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga holds the eternal flame of the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, lit and dedicated in 1973 as a constant symbol of the Alliance’s permanency and heritage. The Alliance was formed in 1913 in response to the discrimination faced by early black postal employees. In the early 1900s, nearly every railway mail clerk was African American, a hazardous job that involved delivering mail via wooden cars that often times crashed. A union of people who served the nation as rank and file employees, the first industrial union in the U.S. that was open to everyone, was created to fight for fair practices within the career. The first order of business was to eliminate the photo hiring process that allowed discrimination, which took 26 years. They soon added women's rights to their repertoire after WWII for equal career benefits, and have since then seen over 100 years of reform that has benefited the mistreated minority. Visiting this eternal flame and symbol of equality will give you the sense of accomplishment and importance that the alliance has felt for a century!
Sallie Crenshaw Bethlehem Center- Your last stop on this exciting two day Tennessee adventure is at the Sallie Crenshaw Bethlehem Center. Sallie Crenshaw was Tennessee’s first female, African American ordained minister. After returning from Virginia on a church mission she was appalled to find so many black children in need of day-care, so in 1947 she helped create the original St. Elmo Mission. She originally "borrowed" a beer tavern on Elmo Avenue that was closed by law on Sundays. 65 children sat on kegs and studied the Bible as they ate crackers and juice. Soon was built a 600 dollar structure featuring 3 classrooms, a kitchen, an office, 2 bathrooms, a large chapel, and room for 130 hungry children. In 1983 the name was changed to its current status and today this center helps thousands upon thousands of children and teens get the shelter, education, and sustenance they deserve. A tour of this center will show your group the history and inspiration of Sallie Crenshaw, as well as a living example of the center’s motto "give faith, educate, grow leaders, beat the odds."