By now you’ve either heard about or witnessed the magnificence that is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I had the privilege of viewing all of the exhibits during the press preview a week prior to the opening then I went back to cover the actual opening ceremony. I’m still not over it.
For a facility that was literally 100 years in the making, those who had their hands in putting it together knocked each and every detail right out of the park. It’s a magical place that depicts our long, painful, and joyful history. It will remind you of our resilience in the best way, and guess what, we deserve every bit of it. Here are the biggest highlights.
1. The History will stir your soul- The museum advises that you start viewing from the bottom then work your way up to the top. The lowest level is a hub of information and memorabilia from the slave trade. It’s a dark floor giving off a somber energy.
There you’ll find things like Nat Turner’s Bible, Harriet Tubman’s shawl and hymn book, and old currency, which tell the story of how slave labor was used to essentially drive wealth into Europe and eventually the United States.
The floor above is centered around segregation. Things like Emmett Till’s original glass top coffin and the white hoods of clansmen are displayed in the area.
2. The “Black Power Room” will make you proud- Walking into this section, which is officially called, “A Changing America,” almost made me bust out in a dance number. After two entire floors focused on the brutality our people suffered, being in this room is like experiencing the transformation that took place during the late 1960s. The music, the lighting, and the photos in this room gave me the ultimate goosebumps.
One of the curators explained that the units they built to display the photos mimic picket signs as a way to further illustrate the demand for justice and freedom during that era. I felt like pumping my fist and doing the runnnin’ man, lol.
On this level, they also dedicate space to Oprah, Public Enemy, President Obama, and others who’ve helped to change the narrative of the black experience in our country.
Another jaw dropping detail between the second and third level from the bottom, is an actual plane flown by The Tuskegee Airmen. In the backdrop where it hangs, the lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” are etched on the wall.
3. The music history will uplift you even more- The music memorabilia in the museum is everything and more.
I especially loved seeing the En Vogue dress worn in the “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” and Bootsy Collins’ get up.
4. Hip Hop influence and style is showcased in the best way- One of the highlights is the turntable system and microphone Rakim donated.
5. Black art is on display – I almost missed the entire section on black art since the museum is so huge and filled with amazing things to see. I was able to sneak in a few shots before the preview ended.