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Black History Is Our History: Self-Guided Walking Tours Highlight History Of Black Composers, Musicians Around NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As we celebrate Black History Month, we continue to learn more about the richness of the history and culture hidden in New York City.

CBS2's Hazel Sanchez tells us about a new program designed to help discover more about the city's musical legacy.

There's a captivating baritone on the steps of a brownstone in the middle of Harlem.

Even more impressive, soloist Kenneth Overton is singing lyrics by the famed Harlem renaissance writer and poet Langston Hughes on the very site of his former home.

"I get to sing the music of some of my literary heroes as well as some of my musical heroes, and to combine that with New York City and Black history, it's just a win-win," Overton told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

It's all part of a project by "On Site Opera" called "The Road We Came." It's a free app designed to showcase composers, musicians and places that highlight the rich Black history of New York City through a series of self-guided, musical walking tours.

CBS2 started a tour at the Langston Hughes House on East 127th Street and met the current owners, who took us look inside.

Overton just couldn't resist singing inside the home, too.

"I hope that the audience connects in a visceral way, they understand and hear these words in a way that might be different from just reading them in the book," he said.

Eric K. Washington is a historian who narrates the tours.

"If you're interested in discovering aspects of the Black experience in New York that you're not aware of, great music by Black composers... It's just a wonderful way to tour the city, either on foot or from your armchair, or both," he said.

Eric Einhorn, artistic director of On Site Opera, explained how the tours work.

"Download the app to their phone, and then when they get to the location they open the tour and just like a regular GPS," Einhorn said. "The tour will take you from spot to spot. It'll show you the route you have to take, and then when you get to the locations another window will pop up with information about that particular spot."

Another Uptown stop was the Schomburg for a deeper dive into the music of the Harlem Renaissance by composers like Leslie Adams and Margaret Bonds, one of the first Black composers to gain recognition in the U.S.

The three musical walking tours will take people through Harlem, Midtown and lower Manhattan, where the historical journey begins at the African Burial Ground National Monument.

The two and a half mile Midtown tour has stops at Carnegie Hall and then up to Lincoln Center, where the Metropolitan Opera will open their season with the first work presented by Black composer Terence Blanchard.

It also re-introduces an area as San Juan Hill, once renowned for dance halls and jazz clubs. The tour features music by artists like ragtime great Eubie Blake.

"People who participate will walk away with a little bit more insight into Black contributions in New York. They will meet a host of other people that they didn't know," Washington said.

Music and history enriching them every step of the way.

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