Last month my line sister and I rounded up the kids and took a quick overnight trip to Washington, D.C. Our sole purpose of this trip was to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Saying that the museum was amazing is an understatement. I experienced a range of emotions- anger, sadness, happiness, pride. And I learned so much. A lot of what was left out of the HIStory books. You absolutely must visit for yourself!
After decades of advocates pushing for a museum to highlight and honor the contributions of African Americans, The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established by Act of Congress in 2003. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.
The museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts. And nearly 100,000 people have become members to date. The NMAAHC opened to the public on September 24, 2016 as the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is free since it’s a Smithsonian museum. However you will need a timed entry pass to enter. You may only get passes through the museum’s ticketing system, Etix. Here’s how…
–Advanced time entry passes for individuals are released on the first Wednesday of each month. These passes are for three months in the future.
–Same-day timed entry passes are available online beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET daily until they run out.
-A limited number of walk-up passes (one per person) are available starting at 1 p.m. on weekdays. No walk up passes are available on weekends due to high visitation.
–Group passes are currently suspended in order to process open requests.
We had advanced timed entry passes for a Saturday visit. Our time was 2 pm, but we arrived an hour early. We took our chances and asked if we could be allowed in early, and security let us in. So if you have a pass for later in the day you may be able to get in earlier. You’ll need all the time that you can get if you wish to see the entire museum.
Tuskegee Institute Training Aircraft
The NMAAHC has five floors. The lower three levels explore the history of African Americans in the U.S, starting with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. As you move up, you go through the Civil War, Abolishment of Slavery, The Jim Crow Era, The Civil Rights Movement and Black Arts Movement. The history galleries end with the Obama Presidency and Black Lives Matter Movement.
The history galleries are overwhelming. Not only are there lots of artifacts and exhibits packed in. But the emotional toll is at times unbearable. Seeing real shackles and reading about the conditions on the slave ships had me seeing red. The interactive 1960 Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-in Exhibit was eye opening yet anger inducing. What put the icing on the cake though was the Emmitt Till Exhibit.
The open casket of Emmitt Till is on display with an image inside of his mutilated face. The casket is on a platform, making the image inside barely visible. This was done since Emmit’s mom, Mamie Till, would not let anyone stare into her son’s casket too long at the funeral. You are also not allowed to take photos.
The procession of visitors walks by the casket with Mahaliah Jackson singing Amazing Grace in the background. It feels very solemn as if you’re truly attending the funeral. The other section of the exhibit features video interviews describing the series of events that led up to the lynching of Emmitt Till, and what took place after.
These videos made me extremely angry all while feeling sad at the same time. Especially the interview with Mamie Till. As a mother of a black teenage son, I can’t imagine having to go through what she went through. I was heartbroken for her.
1968 Olympics Black Power Salute
The upper galleries of The National Museum of African American History and Culture were much more pleasant and fun. They were a breath of fresh air after viewing the history galleries. The community galleries featured exhibits on The African American Military Experience. Along with exhibits about leveling the playing field in Sports. My son really enjoyed the sports exhibits as he’s a huge basketball fan, and is on his school’s varsity team.
The community galleries also included an interactive gallery with a video about the History of Stepping. My God-daughter really enjoyed this exhibit as she’s currently taking up stepping. I also really enjoyed it as I was captain of the step team in JHS. It was a nostalgic moment.
There is also a small exhibit featuring Black Greek Letter Organizations and their impact beyond the campus through community outreach, activism and leadership. As proud members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., we were happy that BGLO were shown love.
The last level of the NMAAHC was the culture galleries. It featured the Cultural Expressions of African Americans through beauty, fashion, arts, music, television, film, theater and more. All of us had so much fun on this level. I loved the beauty & fashion segment. The Paper Bag Test display sort of struck a nerve as it brought back memories of my childhood experiences. And I could almost feel the sizzle of the hot comb on my scalp. With my mama telling me “It’s just the steam” lol.
There was an interactive music room where you could choose tracks to add to the playlist. My son and I had so much fun singing and dancing to the songs we chose. We also had fun watching clips of shows from The Jeffersons to The Boondocks. And looking at all of the old movie posters, magazine covers, record covers, celebrity paraphernalia and so much more.
Chuck Berry’s Cadillac Eldorado
The kids truly had an amazing time. Which was great as kids can sometimes find museums boring. The lower levels even held their attention. I believe it’s very important for our children to visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The history galleries give a great learning experience. While the culture galleries are motivational, showing them that they can achieve anything they put their minds to. As adults, we sometimes need this reminder as well. And you can never learn too much!
We really enjoyed our trip to The NMAAHC. I loved the museum so much that I made a donation to become a Charter Member. I definitely plan to go back. Even though we made it through all of the floors, I’d like to go again and spend an entire day to truly take my time and look at everything. Plus I’d like to eat at the Sweet Home Cafe’. I skipped the cafe in order to try and see the entire museum.
The images in this post is a small fraction of the photos that I took. I planned to share a lot more, but in the end I decided not to. I want you to see the museum for yourself! If you’d like to visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the next release for May 2018 passes is on Wednesday, February 7th at 9 a.m. ET. Passes go very quickly when released so you’ll need to hop on immediately.