Norfolk: A City Steeped in African American History and Heritage
Nestled in the heart of Virginia, Norfolk stands as a city with a profound African American legacy, deeply connected to the journey of emancipation and the celebration of Juneteenth. This historic city, rich in culture and struggle, has been a witness to many 'firsts' in African American history. It was here in Norfolk that many courageous journeys began, marking significant strides towards freedom and equality.
Norfolk's narrative is intertwined with notable African Americans who have left indelible marks on our nation. The city takes pride in being the birthplace of figures such as Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first black Governor of Liberia, symbolizing a global reach in the fight for black independence and leadership. The city also honors the bravery of figures like Evelyn Butts, a fearless civil rights activist who fought tirelessly against poll taxes that disenfranchised African Americans.
In Norfolk, the echoes of our past resonate through the streets; places like the Attucks Theatre, named after Crispus Attucks and known as the "Apollo of the South," stand as testaments to a rich cultural and artistic legacy. The city's commitment to preserving and celebrating its African American heritage is evident in its museums, cultural sites, and annual events that commemorate Juneteenth, paying homage to the resilience and contributions of the African American community.
As the proud host city for the Miss Juneteenth Virginia Legacy Program, Norfolk is more than just a scenic location; it is a hub of historical significance, deeply rooted in African American heritage. Here, every landmark tells a story of struggle, triumph, and resilience, offering a profound and inspiring backdrop for the celebration of Juneteenth. We invite you to join us in Norfolk, a city where the rich tapestry of history not only honors the past but also empowers a new generation, shaping a future filled with hope, leadership, and community pride.
Norfolk's Historical Points of Interest
The Martin Luther King Memorial, as envisioned by Norfolk Councilman and Judge Joseph A. Jordan, Jr., is a reminder of the commitment we must all make to full inclusion, justice, equality and respect for full citizen rights for every American. The height of the monument is significant so all can see it. The water flow symbolizes life. The inscriptions, which are reproduced on the paving in the Plaza, speak to our progress and the dedication required if we are to make Dr. King’s Dream come true
The Underground Railroad
African-Americans made daring escapes to the north via ships visiting Norfolk's waterways. According to Historian, Dr. Newby-Alexander, " The Underground Railroad did not operate with trains and tracks. But on water and on secrets. " (Newby-Alexander, 2023) Learn more about this leg of the Underground Railroad. Check out her publication, Waterways to Freedom. Fun Fact: Henry Lewey, aka Bluebeard, was such a conductor in Norfolk who was significant for slaves seeking passage to the North.
U.S. Colored Soldiers Monument
The soldier depicted on the monument is Norfolk native Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.
Enslaved at his birth in Norfolk, Carney enlisted in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. He enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts in 1862, and fought with his regiment during the July 18, 1863, attack on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. This statue symbolized what local African American soldiers accomplished during the war.
The "Norfolk 17"
In the late 1950s, after the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education struck down school segregation, many in Virginia were still holding out.
Rather than allow 17 Black students into white schools in 1958, Norfolk city leaders simply shut the doors of its public schools. The move left those 17 and thousands of the city’s white students out of school for months. They became known as the Norfolk 17 and the Lost Class of 1959. The city recently unveiled a monument to those students.
Hampton Roads KROC Center Performing Arts Auditorium
1401 Ballentine Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23504
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Mark your calendars! Ticket sales for the much-anticipated event begin on May 1st, 2024, with only a limited number available to ensure an exclusive experience. Secure your spot by reaching out to our dedicated staff or contestants for hard copy tickets, or wait for the electronic tickets to be released on the release date.