Cultural Tourism Project Connects Waterloo to Black History

Charles Pearson is launching a new cultural tourism project in Waterloo to identify and promote African American historic places. The Waterloo native and East High School graduate has researched and developed multiple walking, biking, and driving tours throughout Iowa, focusing on African American historic places and Civil Rights locations. In the coming year, Pearson will be showcasing Waterloo’s historical and cultural resources through the Waterloo African American Historical Resource Development Project.

Pearson’s goal is to improve access to Waterloo’s historic Black community and Downtown Waterloo by providing an opportunity to explore Black Waterloo in a new way. The project, when complete, will connect Waterloo’s historic places to the larger context of Black history across the state through Pearson’s Iowa African American Heritage Trail program.

The Iowa African American Heritage Trail inventories and highlights Iowa’s African American experiences, with a focus on historic Black communities. Pearson envisions the development of a statewide self-guided virtual tour with markers and interpretive panels providing information about each site’s role in Iowa’s Black history. He also plans to develop an interactive website to use as a companion to the tour and offer the experience virtually.

He sees this project as an opportunity to capitalize on local tourism in the Cedar Valley. Pearson says, “This is not just about preserving history, but how history affects local tourism spending and Waterloo’s Black small business community. These resources will connect people to small businesses in Waterloo and offer Waterloo a new tourism platform”.

The Waterloo African American Historical Resource Development Project is a fiscal sponsor of the Waterloo Community Foundation. Community members interested in contributing to this project can donate online at Checks can be mailed to the Waterloo Community Foundation at 425 Cedar Street, Suite 320, P.O. Box 1253 Waterloo, IA 50704.