Bill Charlap Trio at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley | Johan-Broberg

Multicultural Seattle: African American

In the late 1800s, African Americans broke the coal-mining strikes plaguing the Pacific Northwest. These residents formed two neighborhoods in Seattle, which eventually grew to become the Central District, today one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods. Defense jobs of World War II brought more African Americans eager for opportunities, and the city has never looked back.


Bill Charlap Trio at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley | Johan-Broberg


Start at the Northwest African American Museum in Columbia City. Displays cover black pioneers, WWII’s Tuskegee Airmen, and the jazz era. Get a taste of how that musical scene evolved at Lucid Lounge or Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, then catch the wide range of performances organized by the Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

Another great stop is the University of Washington’s Jacob Lawrence Gallery, named for the seminal painter who taught there. It has transformed from a student exhibition space to a curated powerhouse.

Seasonal festivities are also a perfect way to soak in the culture. April brings the fine African American Film Festival, while June features Sundiata: Black Arts Fest (named for a 13th-century Mali king).



See what the chef is stewing at Somalian restaurant Dur Dur Cafe (cash only); it can range from fish to camel. Or savor the cuisine at Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant, where diners can pinch red lentils with spongy injera flat bread. Pam’s Kitchen dishes up amazing Trinidadian fare. The jerk chicken battles the curries for taste supremacy. Meat lovers should beeline to The Barbecue Pit (cash only), which turns out wood-smoked ribs, burnished with a brown-sugar sweetness. Or dip into the vegan universe of Plum Bistro, serving jerk tofu and yam burgers.



African American Film Festival | The Barbecue Pit 2509 E Cherry St | Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas 1404 E Yesler Way, Ste 202; | Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley 2033 Sixth Ave; | Dur Dur Cafe 2212 E Cherry St | Jacob Lawrence Gallery 1915 NE Chelan Ln; | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute 104 17th Ave S; | Lucid Lounge 5241 University Way NE; | Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant 2605 E Cherry St; | Northwest African American Museum 2300 S Massachusetts St; | Pam’s Kitchen 609 Eastlake Ave E; | Plum Bistro 1429 12th Ave; | Sundiata: Black Arts Fest | *Visit Seattle Partner


Learn more about Seattle’s African American heritage:

African American Cultural Heritage Guide to Seattle



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