Savannah: sophisticated South

A history that's beyond 40 acres and a mule

With its enchanting tree-lined squares and Victorian homes, Savannah possesses an old elegance. But beneath its seductive charm, Georgia’s oldest city is rich in African American history. The first slave ships to arrive in Georgia entered Savannah’s port in 1749. Savannah is where the Negro Baptist Church began in America and where Sherman promised newly freed slaves “40 acres and a mule.”

Who’s who: Savannah is more than 60% African American. Floyd Adams Jr. is the city’s first black mayor.Good eats: For good clean-your-plate food, head to Nita’s Place (140 Abercon St.; 912-238-8233). Try the mouthwatering spoon bread, okra gumbo, buttered shrimp and sour cream biscuits…For a taste of traditional Gullah cuisine, Walls’ BBQ (515 E. York St.; 912-232-9754) is the place. Order the Red Velvet cake, too…It’s upscale dining at George’s (1105 E. Highway 80; 912-786-9730) on Tybee Island, just 20 minutes from Savannah’s historic district.

Music & more: Hannah’s East Nightclub (20 E. Broad St.; 912-233-2225) has hot jazz…Catch the River St. Riverboat Co.’s (800-786-6404) gospel dinner cruise.

On the radio: 93.1 WEAS FM (urban contemporary) and 103.9 WSGF FM (rhythm and blues).

Where to worship: Founded in 1773, First African Baptist Church (23 Montgomery St.; 912-233-6597) is considered the birthplace of the area’s civil rights movement. Built by slaves, it claims to be North America’s oldest continuously active black church…Begun in 1802, Second African Baptist Church (123 Houston St.; 912-233-6163) is where General Sherman read the Emancipation Proclamation to Savannah’s citizens. Martin Luther King Jr. also preached segments of his “I Have A Dream” sermon here, before repeating it during the famous March on Washington.

Sites and sounds: Explore Savannah by taking a “Negro Heritage Trail Tour” (912-234-8000). The expedition highlights the city’s black historic and cultural sites…Black history is at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum (460 MLK Blvd.; 912-231-8900)…King-Tisdell Cottage (514 E. Huntington St.; 912-234-8000) houses the Black Heritage Museum…Slaves and freed blacks, black union and confederate soldiers are buried at Laurel Grave-South Cemetery (37th Street; 877-SAVANNAH)

Sleepy time: Opened in 1996, Grande Toots Inn (212 W. Hall St.; 912-236-2911, 800-835-6831) is Savannah’s first black-owned bed and breakfast. The rooms at this elegantly restored Victorian home are furnished with antiques.

Rates are $115 to $160…Claudia’s Manor (101 E. 35 St.; 912-238-1222, 800-773-8177; www.claudiasmanor.com)
is the city’s second black-owned B&B. Its rooms are decorated in different themes.

Details: 800-SAVANNAH or visit the Website at www.savannah-visit.com.

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