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Date: Feature Week of March 6, 2005
Topic: Black Press Business/Economic
Author: William Reed
Article ID: article_ema030605



A Money-Making Scheme for Blacks

Black Americans are discovering the power of their history, and their timing's on target, given trends and acute interest in heritage tourism.  As African Americans spend over $50 million annually in travel expenditures many blacks are making money in their cultural history.

For example, many people don't know what blacks did during the Civil War.  An "Earning the Right to Citizenship" theme was used to tell a story of blacks’ history in the Civil War as well as boost tourism prospects for an area in Eastern North Carolina declining from the exit of its industries.

To help illuminate a lost chapter in Civil War history, a program on the U.S. Colored Troops was held recently in Kinston, North Carolina.  The black contribution to the Civil War wasn't mentioned in most history classes, but event organizer Malcolm Beech says: “Historians and scholars know the impact these troops had in the ultimate Union victory. We hope someday to have American history books rewritten that include the contribution of Colored Troops during the Civil War.”  Beech said the two-day event sponsored by his Cultural Heritage Museum supports heritage tourism opportunities in the 23,000 population city and surrounding Lenoir County.  "We got a lot of assistance from the Kinston Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as the Chamber of Commerce," says Beech.

Lenoir County Board of Commissioners Chairman George Graham said "The symposium will improve race relations and the economy. It will cause people to come here to hear the story we have to tell."  Lenoir County and Kinston had residents who enlisted in the Union army and fought in the battle of Wyse Fork.  Six black regiments fought in that battle.  Bringing the symposium to Kinston is another effort in the quest to make the city an attraction for heritage tourism.  "It draws attention to Kinston as a Civil War tourism destination," Beech said. "Tourism is natural because of our history."

Another Black Heritage project launched around the same theme is the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C. which opened in January 1999.  Using photographs, documents and state of the art audio visual equipment, the museum helps visitors understand the African American's heroic and largely unknown struggle for freedom.  The memorial’s Wall of Honor lists the names of 209,145 United States Colored Troops who served in the Civil War.  Presented on 166 burnished stainless steel plaques and arranged by regiment, the names include the 7,000 white officers who served with USCT.  The Wall of Honor directory locates individual names within the regimental groupings.  An adjacent museum features a program for locating relatives of USCT.

By the year 2010, tourism is projected to be the number one industry in the world, and more blacks may have greater prospects in the industry.  Entrepreneurial opportunities for blacks as travel agents, tour guides and operators, transportation and bed and breakfast providers and caterers are growing.

Due to increases in discretionary spending, advanced and accessible modes of transportation, and a global focus on travel and learning, tourism is an area blacks can gain a financial foothold.  Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) study projects substantial revenue can be generated through African American culture and heritage marketing.  Black college bowls, blues and R&B festivals and museums and landmarks, family reunions, slavery and battle sites help us to celebrate our culture and sites.  African Americans use group tours at a rate of 3 times that of any other minority.  Half (51%) of African-American trips are made by adults traveling alone or with someone outside their household. About one in four (26%) trips taken includes children under 18 years old.  Sometimes their travel is an emotional family journey or community odyssey – to be immersed in cultural origins and heritage.  Note that 12 percent of current African American travelers are visiting historical places or museums.  Other popular activities on African-American trips are nightlife or dancing (13%), attending cultural events or festivals (12%), visiting theme or amusement parks (12%), and gambling (12%).


© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com


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