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African American History

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A black-and-white photograph of a man speaking from a podium during a dinner recognizing Hugh Mulzac for being named a naval captain after 22 years of naval service. Mulzac is seated next to the podium at bottom right.

Celebrating African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Libraries
In celebration of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture this weekend, we’ve put together a special digital collection of titles related to the African American experience.  Many of these books come from our National Museum of African American History and Culture Library, which will open in the museum later more »

National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
NMAAHC is the nineteenth Smithsonian Museum

"A Century in the Making: The Journey to Build a National Museum," Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (blog), Tumblr. August 24th, 2016, http://nmaahc.tumblr.com/post/149430396115/a-century-in-the-making-the-journey-to-build-a.

"Culture Wars Won and Lost, Part II: The National African-American Museum Project," Radical History Review 70 (1998): 78-101.

The Time Has Come: Report to the President and to the Congress". National Museum of African American History and Culture Plan for Action Presidential Commission, last modified April 2, 2003, http://nmaahceis.si.edu/documents/The_Time_Has_Come.pdf.

Dodson, Howard. "A Place of our Own: The National Museum of African American History and Culture." Callaloo Vol. 38 No. 4. (2015): 729-741.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is opened on September 24, 2016 by President Barack Obama during a three day festival on the National Mall produced by Quincy Jones, a member of the museum's advisory board. The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture, its goals are 1) to provide an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore this history through interactive exhibitions; 2) to help all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences; 3) to explore what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture; and 4) to serve as a place of collaboration that reaches beyond Washington to engage new audiences and to collaborate with museums and educational institutions that preserved this important history well before this museum was created.

NMAAHC was established by law in 2003, the culmination of decades of efforts to commemorate African American history. African American civil war veterans began the push to commemorate the African American influence on America with a place on the National Mall in 1915. Veterans of the US Colored Troops were nearly excluded from a 50th anniversary Grand Review Parade celebrating the victorious Union Troops. USCT veterans formed a Committee of Colored Citizens of the Grand Army of the Republic to make sure their military service was remembered and provide help with housing, food, and logistical costs for African American veterans. After the parade, funds from this committee went to a National Memorial Association to create a more permanent memorial to African Americans' contributions to America. The association's aim was to build a building to depict African Americans' contributions in all walks of life, not just military. While no site was designated, the National Mall was the committee's goal.

Despite significant racially charged opposition, this Association worked long and hard to accomplish their goal, and with significant grass roots support that overcame congressional racism, a joint resolution creating a commission for the museum was signed into Law by President Coolidge on March 4, 1929. Unfortunately, due to the stock market crash later that year, the commission was unable to raise funds and the museum was never built. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 galvanized interest again. An initiative by Tom Mack, president of Tourmobile Sightseeing, a DC shuttle tour company, led to a 1986 Joint Resolution sponsored by Representatives Mickey Leland of Texas and John R. Lewis of Georgia and Senator Paul Simon of Illinois "to encourage and support" private efforts to build a memorial and a museum in Washington, DC.

Starting in 1988, new bills were introduced annually in the Congress by Rep. John Lewis to create a National African American Heritage Museum and Memorial within the Smithsonian Institution. In 1991, a Smithsonian blue-ribbon commission recommended the creation of a national museum devoted to African Americans to collect, analyze, research, and organize exhibitions on a scale and definition that matched the major museums devoted to other aspects of American life. The commission recommended that the museum be temporarily located in the Arts and Industries Building until a new, larger facility could be built, but the legislation stalled amid controversy about funding and the appropriateness of the site. In 2001, a new bipartisan coalition of Representatives John Lewis and J. C. Watts, Jr., and Senators Sam Brownback and Max Cleland renewed efforts to establish a National Museum of African American History and Culture within the Smithsonian Institution. Renewed questions about funding and feasibility of using the Arts and Industries Building resulted in the passage of P.L. 107-106 on December 28, 2001, which established the NMAAHC Plan for Action Presidential Commission to develop a feasible plan to move forward with the museum.

Afro Latino history in African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Insider

Curator Ariana Curtis talks about a boat seat that shows the African presence in Ecuador

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Design for National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Image Courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture's Website.

An artist rendition of the design by architect David Adjaye of the Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The design features a museum that has glass walls and features a crown motif from a Yoruban sculpture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a Smithsonian Institution museum established in 2003. It will be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in 2015.

Model of National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
This is a model by Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

National Museum of African American History and Culture Site

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
One of four sites proposed for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). This site ultimately is chosen for the new museum. The Washington Monument, Constitution Avenue, 14th Street in the foreground and 15th Street, and part of the National Museum of American History building are all the picture.

Spotlight: National Museum of African American History and Culture Library

Smithsonian Libraries
Anyone interested in knowing more about the African diaspora, American slavery, or the twentieth century African American migration to northern U.S. cities will find insights at the National Museum of more »

Your Questions About African-American History, Answered

Smithsonian Magazine
A special edition of Ask Smithsonian on the occasion of the opening of a new Smithsonian museum

Architectural History of the the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2012

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
nmaahc.si.edu/building

Following a building design competition, a collaborative team of four architecture firms was chosen to design the state of the art National Museum of African American History and Culture. The team, The Freelon Group; Adjaye Associates; Davis Brody Bond; and the SmithGroup, is being led by principal architects Philip Freelon and David Adjaye.

The cultural expressionism design of the building is based upon the Yoruban corona or crown structure. This bronze corona expresses faith, hope, and resiliency. In the building's interior, the corona forms a perimeter surrounding the primary galleries of the museum, and has strategic openings that provide views of significant points in Washington offering "a view of America through the lens of African American history and culture." The building has five stories, although it is partially underground. Sustainability and environmental responsibility have been a key factor of the design, and will be an example of best practices in environmental design.

The external grounds are an integral component of the museum design. Water will be a dynamic feature, and the grounds will include elements such as a marsh garden, large reflecting pool, and flowing streams. According to museum director Lonnie Bunch, visitors will have to physically cross the water in order to enter the museum, symbolizing African slaves' over water journey.

The museum opened on September 24, 2016, in a ceremony presided over by President Barack Obama.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Image of the winning design by Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smith Group, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

President Trump Visits the African American History Museum

Smithsonian Magazine

President Donald Trump toured the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, for the first time on Tuesday morning.

“This is a truly great museum,” Trump told reporters during a press appearance following his visit. “I’ve learned and I’ve seen and they’ve done an incredible job."

Museum director Lonnie Bunch and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton led the tour for the president, who was accompanied by the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson and his wife, Candy, Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, presidential aide Omarosa Manigault and his daughter Ivanka Trump.

As they stood in front of the “Paradox of Liberty” exhibit, Bunch discussed how each of the 612 bricks flanking a statue of Thomas Jefferson were inscribed with the name of an enslaved worker Jefferson owned.

“You can’t understand Jefferson without understanding slavery,” Bunch said. Even more than that, he added, the point of the exhibit is to explore the forgotten people that shaped America. “For us, this whole museum is about humanizing stories of people that have been left out of history.”

During his stay, Trump hailed the exhibit about Ben Carson in the “Making a Way Out of No Way” gallery. “We’re proud of Ben, very proud of Ben, especially Candy,” he said, referring to Carson's wife.

The president’s visit during Black History Month provided an opportunity for him to touch on his frequent promise to deescalate racial tensions in the country. "We have a divided country. It’s been divided for many, many years. But we’re going to bring it together," he said.

Before leaving, the president promised to return to the museum soon. “What they’ve done here is something that probably cannot be duplicated,” he said. ”It was done with love and lots of money, right Lonnie? We can’t avoid that. But it was done with tremendous love and passion and that’s why it’s so great.”

A Dream Realized: The National Museum of African American History & Culture Library

Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Shauna Collier, Librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, contributed this post. Late last year my dream of becoming the librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) came true, and a month ago I returned to the Smithsonian Libraries (I worked here years ago as the more »

Book Review: Double Exposure: photos of African American History & Culture

Smithsonian Insider

Photographs, by virtue of their static nature, not only allow us to look back to a fixed point in time, but also give us a […]

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Latino experience is in focus at African American History and Culture Museum

Smithsonian Insider

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened Sept. 24, 2016, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to […]

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Past/Present/Future Memory, Legislation, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The author states that Congressman Dyer is African-America, however, we have found no evidence to support this claim.

In this article, LeRonn Brooks discusses the history of legislation behind the establishment of a museum of African American History. Beginning with the first House Resolution in 1916, Brooks outlines the many different ideas for a monument or museum over the years. The movement is re-energized in the 1960's after the Civil Rights movement, but suffers from disagreement among members of the African American community over who should have control of the museum, and whether or not a national museum would be detrimental to the efforts of other black museums and libraries already established in the United States. Finally, Brooks discussed Congressman John Lewis and his incredibly important contributions to the movement to get a museum established, and what the museum stands to represent in the future.

Smithsonian staff rally to support African American History Museum after noose incident

Smithsonian Insider

Smithsonian staff gathered on Thursday, June 1 outside the National Museum of African American History and Culture to show their support and listen to Director […]

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National Museum of African American History and Culture Opens this Weekend

Smithsonian Insider

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens Saturday, Sept. 24, following a dedication ceremony with President Barack Obama. When it opens, […]

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Historic Freedom Bell to ring in African American History Museum opening

Smithsonian Insider

It rang this year for the first time since segregation, for a congregation that formed as our nation was founded. The next time the Freedom […]

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See hip-hop evolve through photos at the African American History and Culture Museum

Smithsonian Insider

In the late 1970s, hip-hop burst onto the scene in the Bronx in a cultural explosion of rapping, breakdancing and beatboxing, but it didn’t happen […]

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Save Our African American Treasures: Protecting Family History

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson plan explores what can be learned from everyday objects. Students discuss the importance of protecting historical objects and learn how to preserve their own family items, such as photographs and documents.

Grand Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Insider

National Museum of African American History and Culture grand opening Sept. 24, 2016.

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President Obama opens National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian Insider

Today, Saturday Sept, 24, 2016 in the morning, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opened on the National Mall in […]

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