AAA Travel Tips / Savannah's African American Heritage

Savannah's African American Heritage

AAA/Sherry Mims
By AAA Travel Editor Sherry Mims
February 24, 2020
While visiting Savannah, be sure to learn about the city’s deep African American heritage. A number of structures and monuments testify to the community’s resilience, and they’re among the many interesting things to do in Savannah.
This monument by the Hyatt on River Street features a family freed after emancipation. It was designed by Professor Dorothy Spradley of and student Dan Koster of Savannah College of Art and Design.
AAA/Sherry Mims

African-American Monument

Rousakis Plaza and River Street
This poignant tribute in front of the Hyatt hotel on River Street features a family—newly freed after emancipation with the chains of slavery at their feet. You can visit it next to the Savannah River and ponder the poem by Maya Angelou that’s inscribed in the 2002 sculpture. It was designed by Professor Dorothy Spradley of Savannah College of Art and Design with assistance from student Dan Koster.
The First African Baptist Church, detailed in this sign, is an important part of Savannah's history and is the oldest "black church in North America."
AAA/Sherry Mims

First African Baptist Church

23 Montgomery St.
(912) 233-6597
Said to be the “oldest black church in North America,” this congregation formed in 1773. The founding pastor, the Rev. George Leile, joined others who left during the British evacuation of the city of Savannah in 1782 rather than risk enslavement again. The current sanctuary was built circa 1859 and offers guided tours.
Read More
This 1819 Regency manor was designed by William Jay. It features the only intact slave quarters in the city and is said to contain the largest example of haint blue coloring.
AAA/Sherry Mims

Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters

124 Abercorn St.
(912) 790-8800
The ornate mansion and grounds provide a sobering reminder that the South, including this estate, ran on the forced labor of enslaved people. The original slave quarters—the ceiling painted a bright shade of blue called “haint blue” to keep away evil spirits—is said to be the largest example of such painting. The tour for the estate starts there, and you’ll be able to read more about Savannah’s past and current African American history, including the role of the church and the civil rights movement.
Read More
Red bar stools at a diner counter Demarczyk

Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum

460 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
(912) 777-6099
Inside a former African American bank, this museum features photos, exhibits and a re-creation of a storeroom, where African Americans could shop but not dine next door. It’s named after a pastor of the First African Baptist Church and NAACP president, who participated in the civil rights movement and raised funds to commemorate the struggle for equality.
Read More
Many Savannah tours, including the Freedom Trail Tour, depart from outside the Savannah Visitor Information Center.
AAA/Sherry Mims

Tours of Savannah

Tours, including The Freedom Trail Tour, depart from the Savannah Visitor Center at 301 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
(912) 398-2785 for The Freedom Trail Tour
Several Savannah tours offer background on one of Georgia’s oldest communities of African Americans. The Freedom Trail Tour, for example, starts from outside the Savannah Visitor Information Center and includes destinations such as the First African Baptist Church and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. However, first check with the specific company since things to see on their itineraries may vary.
Read More
Domestic Travel Boiler Plate Graphic

Start Your Next Vacation with AAA

AAA Travel provides peace of mind when you travel—before, during and after your vacation! Members enjoy the advantages of membership including exclusive benefits, savings, map routing and travel planning, plus additional travel needs such as AAA Travel Guides, TourBook® guides, passport photos, International Driving Permits and travel insurance. Your next vacation starts with AAA—your complete travel solution. Visit