Guest overlooking sprawling estate of Akwaba's Noble Lane in the Pocono's Mountains. Photo credit: Akwabaa Inn

Bustling black-owned resorts and BnBs for romantic getaways or friend trips

10 mins read

Come with Ark Republic to immerse in the rich and robust history of black-owned resorts and bed and breakfasts with their endless activities.

Globetrotting and jet-setting holds an air of charm and majesty. To ensure an experience that adds to the flair, there is much to choose from when traveling, especially when you are with your sweetheart, a crew of good friends, and even your family. With the growing options in travel, the list of activities are abundant: frequent a natural landscape, explore hiking trails, traverse misty gorges, climb mountains, or enjoy the park by the water. 

Over and above that, the history of Black-owned lodgings is something to behold. They served as safe havens during segregation and discrimination. For hundreds of years, the mobility of Blacks in America was severely restricted. Even after the Emancipation in 1863, traveling throughout the country was done with caution and careful planning. This was magnified when 20th Century segregation replaced 19th Century slave codes.

In response to the risks of travel, U.S. postal carrier Victor Hugo Green devised a database for Black excursionists that mapped out lodgings welcoming them. Officially named the Negro Motorist Green Book, because most travel was carried out by car, the guide ran from 1934 to 1967, when segregation ended through legislative action.

Indeed, African Americans, who were frequently refused entry to mainstream institutions, found lodging, entertainment, and communal spaces at Black-owned and run hotels from the early 20th century until the civil rights era. 

Another effort to address discriminatory practices was by social reformer, Lugenia Burns Hope, along with her husband and educator, John Hope. Both worked to improve the quality of life of African Americans in Atlanta. Specifically, Burns Hope did this by way of the Neighborhood Union (the Union), an organization founded by women who were mainly wives of faculty at Spelman College, Morehouse College and Atlanta University. The Neighborhood Union members canvassed the city to survey the economic, public safety and social needs of the community to enhance Black life in the early 1900s.

One initiative of the Union and other grassroots organizations, was to aid black soldiers denied access to the base canteens and other United Service Organizations (USO)-affiliated entertainment options. The Union organized the Atlanta Young Women’s Christian Association’s (YWCA) War Work Councils at the start of World War I. 

Given the widespread appeal of the Atlanta women’s activism, Burns Hope was invited to spearhead the building of a nationwide network of Hostess Houses. These houses provided a myriad of services, such as recreation and relocation assistance to Black and Jewish soldiers and their families.

Unquestionably, hotels played a crucial role in fostering a sense of belonging, hospitality and empowerment within the Black community, which presently continues. Today, when you step into a Black-owned resort, hotel or inn, it comes with a legacy of resistance and historical significance in civil rights activism. So take a chance to tuck away with your significant other while the two of you explore the history of a spectacular, yet charming city or an exotic island.

Akwaaba’s Brooklyn mansion. Photo credit: Akwaaba Inns

Akwaaba Mansion

If you’re looking to make memories with your new cuddle buddy, a good place to start your journey is Akwaaba Mansion, a property from Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns. The name was coined from the greeting “Akwaaba!,” a term widely used by Ghanaians to greet visitors to their nation. The warm greeting is just the start as Akwaaba sets up an experience fusing culture, luxury and comfort. That encompasses everything, including soul food, churches for believers, and even a small hint of the motherland. 

As such, the owner and former Essence editor-in-chief, Monique Greenwood, decked out the inn with an elegant mix of antiques and Afrocentric design. “At Akwaaba, we sell the great items we use, and supporting other Black-owned businesses is a top priority,” highlighted Greenwood. 

Greenwood and her husband, Glenn Pogue’s fairy tale story come true stems from their romance. It began when they fell in love during their first stay at the popular wedding venue, Buttonwood Manor in Matawan, New Jersey in the mid 80s

Their vacation left such an indelible mark, that it provoked the couple to purchase their first B&B in their neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant in the early 90s, right before gentrification drastically changed the district. In 1995, they opened their doors to the Akwaaba Mansion, a 19th Century Italian villa reminiscent of the Renaissance architecture found in Florence. For accommodations, the property offers four suites, each holding distinctive decor and ambiance.

While the Akwaaba Mansion is a mainstay in Bed-Stuy, when the couple purchased the property, Greenwood was an editor at Essence, and doubters said the house was a money pit. Others thought it was haunted. With a lot of sweat equity, they turned it into a premier, independently-owned inn. 

Next, the pair opened Cape May, New Jersey’s Akwaaba by the Sea, an 1850 Victorian, in 2002, before returning to their original stomping grounds in D.C. in 2003. There, they bought an ever-so-classy five-story, eight-room inn lying on Dupont Circle. Tapping into historical figures whose careers percolated in the city, the husband-and-wife duo stacked each guestroom with volumes of Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes books.

To top it off, the couple selected New Orleans as their winter getaway because of the architecture and energy of the city. They bought McCarty Park Guest House and transformed it into Akwaaba in the Bayou in 2005.

Greenwood and Pogue then brought everything full circle by purchasing the very first B&B that led them to fall in love—Buttonwood Manor. However, it was purchased by MJ’s Restaurants in 2013. 

Also, they added an 1880s manor premised in Philadelphia in 2006, which opened in 2018. They couldn’t help but be drawn in by the city of brotherly love’s allure with its blend of history and modernity, so they added one more to the mix. The University City Section of Philadelphia’s Spruce Hill Manor Inn was chosen as a location by the duo.

Then, in May 2012, the married pair bought Akwaaba’s crown gem at the Mansion at Noble Lane, a posh spa facility resting in Bethany, Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. Now, the 20-room estate is their premier inn.

But their love story doesn’t end there. In the name of amore, they would spend each season of the year in a city they loved. To them, fall in NYC is beautiful, so the couple stays at Akwaaba Mansion in Bedford Stuyvesant. For spring, they went with Akwaaba Washington D.C. due to the blooming cherry blossoms, and Cape May, New Jersey for the summer to enjoy the cool breeze coming off of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the height of their enterprise, Greenwood and Pogue landed a reality TV show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable station called, “Checked In.” The show documented the daily grind of running a franchise from the perspective of the hotelier. While it gleaned the struggles and successes in their business, the show lasted only one season.

Currently, Akwaaba posts three properties on their website. While their portfolio might have shifted, they still prioritize hospitality fit for royalty.  Their homes away from home are adorned with details in stunning architecture and elaborate touches that provide a great place to fire up a long weekend. 

The Oak Bluffs Inn

Further north, not too far away from where the filming of culture-classic Black flick, Inkwell, lies a bed and breakfast whose beauty is too hard to fathom. Sure, to be a stand-out experience, the Oak Bluffs Inn is based in Massachusetts. The peerless inn is within walking distance of shops and restaurants as well as being dazzled with New England charm.

Other excursions include exploring the African American Trail, taking a spin on the Flying Horses carousel, and savoring freshly caught seafood while watching the sunset on the bay. 

The island has both an interesting and difficult history, though it has made strides toward instilling inclusive practices despite its ugly early colonialist past. 

The island was originally inhabited by the indigenous Wampanoag people, a very large, unified confederation of no less than 24 separate tribes. Before the extensive colonization of Martha’s Vineyard, the Wampanoag were estimated to be around 3,000 in the 1640s. Less than a century later, the group’s numbers were cut down to approximately 300, as a result of English settlers’ brutality.

In addition, Edgartown Harbor was recognized as an Underground Railroad site in 2020. Even more, there is evidence that enslaved Africans were sold on Martha’s Vineyard resulting in the island’s first Black population influx. 

Irrespective of the island’s rocky history, many Black affluents are best known for using Martha’s Vineyard as their summer retreat. From the 1800s till the present, Black middle-class and upper-middle-class families have vacationed on the island; the majority of them stay at Oak Bluffs.

In fact, the location is still somewhat a mecca for stars. The Oak Bluffs Inn housed Wynton Marsalis, a jazz musician, who performed live in the living room of the Inn’s Penthouse Suite, where movie director Spike Lee stayed. Additionally, stars including Gregory Porter, and Lalah Hathaway, have visited the historic Circuit Avenue place.

If you two love birds are looking for a star-studded jazzy experience, then the Oak Bluffs Inn is an excellent selection.

Salamander Resort is a 5-star luxury resort offering an array of amenities, activities, spa services and accomodations. Photo credit: Salamander Resort

Salamander Resort

An excellent lodging option for a more traditional southern experience is Salamander Resort. Set in the D.C. area, the five-star resort and spa is a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of the city as it is peacefully situated on 340 acres in Virginia’s Horse and Wine Country, next to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The breathtaking views seemingly come right out of a fairy tale book. 

When owner Sheila Johnson brought her daughter Paige to horseback riding lessons in 1996, she stumbled upon the area.

“I really fell in love with the stone walls,” stated Johnson. “I said to myself back then that if I ever had a chance to do it, I’d really like to settle out here,” she continued.

Then in 1996, she finally got her opportunity when she purchased a farm, formerly known as Cotsworld off the Zulla Road. The BET Co-Founder and the first Black woman billionaire in the United States, relocated her family to Virginia to take advantage of the state’s well-known equestrian lifestyle. 

Her love for the location moved her to purchase 340 acres in Middleburg with the goal of developing one of the most genuine resorts and residential experiences in the country. 

The businesswoman’s gorgeous estate was previously held by Pamela Harriman, a diplomat and Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law. During her trips to the site, First Kennedy would frequently ride by it.

Johnson envisioned every tiny detail to represent her perfectionist fixation. The result was a tastefully exquisite rich historical location. She expanded, by adding properties in Colorado, Jamaica, and Anguilla, as well as locations across South Carolina, Florida, and D.C.

Those seeking a well-earned break from the everyday grind can relish their gourmet meals. 

Either way, “Food brings people together. Culinary diplomacy or food diplomacy is a type of cultural diplomacy,” pointed out Applied Computing Department Chair and Co-Founder of DMV Black Restaurant Week, Dr. Erinn Tucker-Oluwole.

Furthermore, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy rural bike excursions, aerial parks, spa treatments, and spacious, luxuriously appointed guest rooms.

La Maison Midtown

From the opera to the ballet, to the zoo, to bike trails, La Maison Midtown has a lot to offer and yes, that includes food. 

“BLK Directory tweeted, “A visit to La Maison Midtown’s website will show you the delicious recipes they use for breakfast and brunch!” 

Founded by Houston-based lawyer, Genora Boykins and her business partner, Sharon Ownes, the urban oasis is situated in the city of Houston, Texas. The two teamed up in 1999 to buy the acreage that would eventually become their B&B. 

As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Likewise, for Boykins and Owens, their dream did not materialize overnight. They finalized their plans for the lodging in 2008 and greeted their first guests in 2010.

The B&B is not too far away from the outskirts of town where you will find the country. Some couples prefer to travel here to escape the noise pollution. “For those [globetrotters] who have a strong connection to their faith,” La Maison Midtown is near many places of worship for you and your boo to choose from.  

After a night on the town or country, getting your praise on, and satisfying your pallet with the local dynamic cuisine, you both can unwind in an oversized, private shower with two rain shower heads and cozy bathrobes. Undoubtedly, this urban B&B is a terrific place to go for business or pleasure.

Spice Island Beach Resort. Photo credit: Spice Island Beach Resort Media Center

Spice Island Beach Resort

For lovers interested in getting out of the country, submerge yourselves in the splendor of Spice Island Beach Resort and forget about the outside world. Averaging temperatures between 75 and 87 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, you and your beloved can enjoy gorgeous landscapes and white sandy beaches in Grand Anse Beach, St. George’s Grenada. 

It is worth noting, if you recently tied the knot, you and your partner, have the opportunity to enter to win an all-inclusive four-night vacation in a private pool suite compliments of the resort. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all available, along with house wine by the glass and minibar beverages. You two will also be able to play tennis, ride bicycles, and engage in water sports. 

Previously owned by the late Sir Royston O. Hopkin, who purchased the resort in 1987, the resort is currently owned by his family. A guaranteed knock-out experience your room will be accompanied by a balcony or patio. You will also be able to quench your thirst along with your babe with complimentary premium-label drinks. 

It goes without saying that one of the most highly regarded amenities is Oliver Restaurant – one of Grenada’s most elegant places to grub. 

“[Travelers] look for great restaurants…[and] a unique experience with wineries,” noted DeShields.

Located close to the coast, the eatery offers a vibrant blend of Creole and Caribbean flavors. What’s more, every dish, including the vegetarian options are made with fresh ingredients and spices straight from the island. To top it off, calypso and reggae bands perform late into the evening, so you lovebirds can dance the night away. 

Journalist established in 2001, inspired by transformative leads.

Apart from offering a picturesque stay, Black hotels and B&Bs represent advancement, solidarity, and hope. Sustaining a more diverse and inclusive hotel sector for future generations requires us to promote and elevate Black hotelier enterprises. All things considered, the industry’s survival depends on our backing.

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