Finding Frederick Douglass: 7 Black History Month Stops on Scavenger Hunts

Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunts Black History MonthDid you know Frederick Douglass is getting recognized more and more lately?  Can’t blame the guy, he’s done an amazing job. Tremendous.

Black History Month is about celebrating the, ahem, amazing jobs of countless people, from famous statesmen to unknown artists, as well as remembering their struggles. Our scavenger hunts, both for the public and for corporate team building, touch on many such notable figures—including Mr. Douglass himself, who makes an appearance on our Secrets of Fell’s Point Scavenger Hunt in Baltimore. Here are a few more of our favorites.

1. Slavery, North and South

It isn’t a huge surprise to find slave cabins preserved on our Searchin’ Mount Vernon Scavenger Hunt in Virginia—George Washington was a slave owner, after all. The extent of it might surprise, though: Of the five farms that made up Mount Vernon at the time of Washington’s death, 316 slaves made up 90 percent of the population, ruled over by 20 to 30 whites. 

More unexpected, perhaps, are the remains of slave quarters related to “the President’s House,” just steps from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia—and from the route of our Secrets of Old Philadelphia Scavenger Hunt. Only just unearthed in the early 2000s and commemorated in 2010, they housed the nine slaves of the President’s House, temporary headquarters to our first two presidents.

2. The Underground Railroad Was Here

Our Skyline at Sunset Scavenger Hunt in Brooklyn Heights will show you Plymouth Church, once a stop on the Underground Railroad. What’s more, it was built for the charismatic, and wildly popular, abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin).

3. Where MLK Wrote About His Dream

Join the Race to the White House Scavenger Hunt to visit Freedom Plaza, renamed in 1988 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He wrote his “I Have a Dream Speech” at the nearby Willard Hotel. And for good measure, a time capsule with relics from King’s life is buried in the plaza.

4. Walk the Walk in Harlem

The Harlem Renaissance Scavenger Hunt is alive with reminders of black history, from Striver’s Row to the church where Adam Clayton Powell Senior and Junior preached up a storm. One of our favorites, though, is one you might miss if you’re not careful: the Walk of Fame, a series of plaques embedded in the sidewalk along a stretch of 135th St. They recognize the artistry and leadership of icons like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Langston Hughes.

5. The Rich, Delicious History in U Street

The U Street area spent a solid 50 years as the heart of the black community in Washington, D.C. So it’s no surprise that our Munch Around U Street Scavenger Hunt hits everything from the African Civil War Memorial to the nation’s first black YMCA. More importantly, though (at least if you’re hungry)? Celebrate black history with your mouth at places like Ben’s Chili Bowl, the landmark restaurant that since 1958 has served presidents and movie stars. It was even one of the few eateries allowed to operate past curfew during the 1968 riots that followed MLK’s assassination—Ben’s served both black activists and police officers.

6. Gay Street: Not What You Think

One of New York’s most storied neighborhoods, Greenwich Village naturally boasts its share of black history, including the former home of author Richard Wright and the club, Cafe Wha, where Jimi Hendrix was “discovered.” A highlight is the mystery surrounding the naming of the famous Gay Street. Many assume it’s due to the neighborhood’s popularity among LGBT residents and visitors, but a common claim is that it was named in 1833 for abolitionist Sidney Howard Gay. That makes sense, since Gay Street was once the heart of the black community in that area of Manhattan. Only problem? Mr. Gay was only a teenager when the street got its name.

No one really knows where the name came from—possibly from a 1775 newspaper ad selling a horse that mentioned one “R. Gay.” That mystery remains, but you’ll learn about plenty more on the Secrets of Greenwich Village Scavenger Hunt.

7. Secret Genius

OK, he’s not unknown now, but he was while he was alive. Janitor James Hampton spent 14 years of his life crafting the stunningly ornate “Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly.” One of the greatest examples of folk art ever created, “Throne” is made largely of found objects and assorted junk and blends imagery from Christianity and African-American religious practices. Oh, and he kept the whole thing a secret in his garage, a secret that only came out after his death in 1964. Amazing. Check it out on the American Museum Madness Scavenger Hunt.

Find More Fun

Visit the Public Scavenger Hunt schedule to find a hunt in seven cities around the country. To ask us about arranging a corporate scavenger hunt anywhere, contact us online or at 877-946-4868, extension 111.

Check out the rest of the blog for fun stuff—like seven burning questions about the faces on money and eight truly bizarre pieces of nude art from around the world—and useful tips for planning private and corporate eventsAnd while you’re at it, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.