February is Black History Month, which honors and recognizes important events and people of African descent. While this annual event originated in the US more and more travelers, curious about Europe’s rich Black heritage, are seeking out this history while traveling in Europe and discovering that it is more extensive than imagined.
Due to colonialism, the footprint of people of African descent can be found throughout Europe. Evidence of the long-time presence and influence of the African diaspora is hiding in plain sight in many places in Europe and is being brought to light with tours and memorials in a number of European cities, including Amsterdam, Paris, and Lisbon, with an increasing number of travelers of all races and nationalities eager to discover this hidden history.
I would like to note that Black History Month is also recognized in other countries including The Netherlands, UK, and Ireland, however, it is observed in October in those places.
The Black Heritage Amsterdam Tour is the first tour of its kind in The Netherlands and takes visitors along Amsterdam’s famous canal ring, revealing the hidden histories of the city and the contributions of the African Diaspora to Dutch society from the 16th century to the present seen from historical buildings, canal house museums, city landmarks, and fine art.
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The tour is the vision of founder and tour guide Jennifer Tosch whose desire to learn more about her Surinamese parents who grew up in Amsterdam, lead her to study the impact of historical and colonial legacies on the African diaspora in Europe. Jennifer soon learned about the role Africans have played in Amsterdam’s history, as well as the rarely acknowledged role the Dutch played in the slave trade and developed the tour as a way to tell the story.
For tour information visit the Black Heritage Amsterdam Tour website. If you’re planning on booking BHAT, feel free to use the discount code DIS10 for 10% off.
The recently erected “I Am Queen Mary” statue in Copenhagen pays tribute to Mary Thomas, who led the 1878 “Fireburn” revolt, which resulted in the destruction of more than 50 plantations and most of Frederiksted in the former Danish colony of St. Croix. The statue was unveiled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Denmark’s sale of the Virgin Islands to the United States.
Thomas was convicted for her role in the rebellion and extradited to a women’s prison in Copenhagen. The statue of Thomas sitting on a wicker throne with a torch in one hand and a sugar cane cutting tool in the other is located in front of the Danish West Indian Warehouse, which formerly housed sugar and rum from the Caribbean, about a mile from the prison.
While there is no formal Black history tour in Copenhagen or tours that incorporate the story of Mary Thomas, the presence of the statue is a positive first step. Visit the I AM QUEEN MARY website for more information.
Portugal is where the transatlantic slave trade origin of, and is responsible for enslaving nearly 6 million Africans, most of whom went to Brazil. Despite this staggering number, there are no monuments or commemoration of Africans in Portugal, though there is talk of erecting a monument in Lisbon. Until then there are a couple of tours in Lisbon that acknowledge the Black presence in Portugal.
African Lisbon Tour
The walking tour African Lisbon Tour is led by Togo native, Naky. Naky, a life-long student of history, focuses specifically on the history of Africans in Portugal and the role of Portugal in the slave trade.
There is an option to extend the tour and accompany Naky to an African restaurant where you can sample the cuisine from countries like Angola and Cape Verde. Find out more on the African Lisbon Tour website.
Guias da Quinta do Mocho
Guias da Quinta do Mocho is another tour in Lisbon that goes through the predominately African neighborhood Quinta do Mochhas highlighting its street art.
In 2014 Quinta do Mochhas’ town hall commissioned the first murals, and the neighborhood now boasts approx. 120 murals by more than 100 Portuguese and international artists. Tours of this open-air gallery have become increasingly popular in recent years with murals depicting topics like racism, multiculturalism, children’s rights, and justice.
For more information, visit the Guias da Quinta Facebook page.
England, our cousins across the pond, have a large Black population due in large part to its colonial history with African and Caribbean countries. In large cities like London, where the Black population is concentrated, there are several tours that bring their contributions to the forefront.
Black History Walks
Black History Walks offers 12 different guided walking tours highlighting African history in the city dating back hundreds of years. In addition to walking tours, the company runs bus and river tours, as well as films, talks, and workshops. See the Black History Walks website for details on dates and times.
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Avril’s Walks and Talks
Avril’s Walks and Talks is lead by Avril Nanton. Avril, one of the few Black professional guides in London, shows visitors the deep connections of London to the transatlantic slave trade and Black history in places most people would never expect. As noted in the name, Avril also offers talks and courses that show the cultural history of London.
Dates and times for Avril’s Walks and Talks can be found on her website.
Since the 19th century, Paris has welcomed Black American culture like few other places ever have, and as a result Black Americans found themselves drawn to a place that celebrated them as opposed to one that barely tolerated them. Today African-Americans are still celebrated during these Black heritage walking tours through the City of Light.
Walking The Spirit Tours of Black Paris & Beyond
Walking the Spirit Tours in 1994 was launched by Julia Browne in 1994, and is the first tour company to focus specifically on black American history in Paris. What started as two tours has now expanded to offer a full range of Black Paris & Beyond vacation and travel services, which include the literary and artists tour through the Latin Quarter past the former homes of Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes, and a bus tour from Paris to visit Josephine Baker’s chateau in Sarlat, with a stop along the way in either the Beaune or Bordeaux wine regions. Visit the Walking the Spirit Tours website for information on dates and times.
Entrée to Black Paris
Author and speaker, Dr. Monique Wells, began leading tours of university study-abroad groups. Now Entrée to Black Paris offers more than a dozen walks that focus on everything from art to jazz to food to World War II through the lens of Black expatriates. Visit the Entrée to Black Paris website to find out more.
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Black Paris Tours
Started in 1997 by former broadcast journalist Ricki Stevenson, Black Paris Tours shows and tells of the Black presence in Paris. Traveling through the city on foot and using public transportation, Black Paris Tours convey the historical impact Black people in the founding and development of Paris. And for those interested in discovering the city’s nightlife, the company offers Paris after dark tours. Discover more about Black Paris Tours and nightlife on the website.
Le Paris Noir
Le Paris Noir is the newest entry in the Black Paris tours arena. Founder Kevi Donat grew up between the Caribbean island, Martinique and Paris and is a self-proclaimed “history nerd”. Donat, who offers tours in both English and French, focuses more on France and subjects such as la Négritude (Black French literary movement) and less on the legacy of Black American artists and intellectuals in Paris, thus attracting a wider non-American audience. Check out Le Pair Noir on Facebook or Instagram to find out more.
Have you ever been on any Black history tours in Europe?
If so, which one/s?
Tell us in the comments.
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