“Black history talks about the strength and determination of a people to be all that they could be.”
Barbara Morris founded Black Coutours, a location-based African American history tour organization, in 1991. Her passion for sharing knowledge about black history stems from her childhood experience as a person of color. After confronting racism and segregation at a young age, Morris “couldn’t understand what [she] had done wrong. [She] grew up thinking that black people had done something very, very bad and that is why we were treated so badly by white people.”
Morris developed a deeper understanding of racism and black history through her love of reading. The perspective she gained from reading sparked a fire in her to become a teacher.
“The fact that I realized the kind of heritage that I had made a difference in my life.”
Morris truly wanted to tell people about black history wherever they were going, about landmarks that might have unknown black history behind them. Her longing to educate people on black history came to fruition when a high school graduating class asked her if she would put together a tour about black history for their annual trip.
Nearly thirty years later, Morris has tours available in various locations across the country, including Cincinnati, Washington D.C., and Niagara Falls.
Her Chicago tour mostly takes place in Bronzeville, because it “was the social, political, and economic mecca of the black community of the early part of the last century.”
Chicago was a focal point for black history. Morris explains that “they were fighting battles like they were fighting in the deep South, to make the strides that they did.”
What keeps Morris as a tour operator today is her impact on black youth.
She says, "What they get is watered down information that tries to keep them believing that they are not able and do not have the capacity to succeed. But if they know their heritage, they have something to push back against all that is still happening today.”
It is important for seniors to know about black history as well. According to Morris, “A lot of senior citizens grew up without the benefit of recognizing who [African Americans] are…there are some elderly people that never felt like African Americans were about very much because they weren’t able to achieve very much.”
The residents from our Good Life Senior Residences program had the opportunity to experience the Black History Tour of Chicago, and they described it as both interesting and very exciting!
"Our histories are intertwined with places and events."
Through Morris’s tours, she hopes to counteract those pre-conceived notions some people have, and instead, create awareness about the struggles black people have overcome. “When you learn more about [black history], you understand more about who [African Americans] are and why they do what they do. And that makes better camaraderie among the races.”