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National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Washington, DC

The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. The museum will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all. The museum's grand opening is September 24, 2016.

ADDRESS

Constitution Avenue, N.W., between 14th and 15th Streets

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 633-1000

info@si.edu
Website

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

METRO

Smithsonian (Mall exit) or Federal Triangle

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Bayou Classic Trophy

Third Floor, Sports: Leveling the Playing Field

The winner of the annual Grambling State vs. Southern University football game earns the Bayou Classic Trophy. This Waterford crystal trophy was retired after the 2014 contest.

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Campaign Button, 2008

A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond

Campaign button from the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama and Joe Biden

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Commemorative Headdress Of Her Journey Beyond Heaven by artist Kenya Robinson, 2009-2010

Fourth Floor, Cultural Expressions

Prior to the 20th century, many Africans wore hairstyles that signaled social and political rank, marital status, age, and more. Grooming their hair with carved combs and herbal products was a laborious communal process—with outstanding results. With the rise of the Afro in 1960s, African American culture linked hair, politics and group identity. The Afro symbolized self-acceptance and resistance to oppression. First a political statement, then a fad, the Afro led blacks to wear other natural hairstyles, such as braids.

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Costumes from The Jeffersons, c. 1975-79

Fourth Floor, Taking the Stage

Developed as a spin-off from the series "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" (CBS, 1975-85) told the story of an African American couple who “moved on up” to the ranks of the upper-middle class. In addition to depicting an affluent black family, the show broke new ground by including an interracial married couple as supporting characters. Led by talented stars Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford and Marla Gibbs, "The Jeffersons" became one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history.

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Fountain Pen, 1965

Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876-1968

Using this pen, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Hat from Mae Reeves’s Millinery

Third Floor, The Power of Place

Mae Reeves’s Millinery operated for over 50 years in the bustling retail neighborhoods of Philadelphia. A southern migrant and single mother, Reeves opened her first shop on South Street in 1941. With creativity and business acumen, she established herself as a one-of-a-kind ladies’ hat maker who attracted customers from all walks of life. From simple cloches to elaborate showstoppers, Reeves’ creations embody the spirit of creativity, skill, and love that she brought to her craft.

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Inkstand, ca. 1863

Freedom and Slavery

This brass inkstand sat on the desk of Maj. Thomas Eckert in the War Department telegraph office. At the time, the War Department handled all the president’s telegrams, and Abraham Lincoln often stopped by to learn the latest news of the war. Years later Eckert would recall, “The President came to my office every day and invariably sat at my desk. . . . I became much interested . . . with the idea that he was engaged upon something of great importance, but did not know what it was until he had finished the document and then for the first time he told me that he had been writing an order giving freedom to the slaves of the South, for the purpose of hastening the end of the war. . . . I still have in my possession the inkstand which he used at the time.”

Transfer from Library of Congress, NMAH

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OFF DISPLAY

James Brown, Civil War Veteran, 1936

Photograph of James Brown, Civil War veteran, with a picture of Abraham Lincoln, May 1936

Unidentified photographer, photographic gelatin on photographic paper and paint; paper; ink on newsprint; blue pencil, gift from the Liljenquist family collection

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Landscape at NMAAHC

1400 Constitution Avenue, NW

The 2-acre landscape surrounding the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture serves to contextualize and relate the museum to the larger site of the historic National Mall. The museum’s open, pastoral grounds; long, sweeping paths; and deliberate groupings of trees reference the nearby grounds of the Washington Monument and the White House. The site’s thematic plantings and water features serve as symbolic references for the African American experience. Together, these landscape elements provide a reflective space for Smithsonian visitors.


The landscape was designed by Kathryn Gustafson and her colleagues at the Seattle-based landscape architecture firm GGN The firm, known for its symbolic landscapes, composed the landscape around three main themes symbolic of the African American experience: Hope and Optimism; Strength and Resiliency; and Spirituality. GGN based its plant selection on these themes when it chose large ornamental shade trees for their strong, sturdy bark and smaller flowering trees for their early white blooms to inspire hope and optimism.

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The African American History and Culture Museum Wins Gold for Going Green
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Marian Anderson's 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert outfit

The skirt and the decorative trim on the orange jacket were worn by Marian Anderson in 1939 when she sang at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1993, with Anderson’s permission, the original velvet jacket was remade using silk fabric..


Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was one of the great voices of the 20th Century. Her rich, vibrant contralto and extensive vocal range captivated audiences worldwide, while the grace and dignity she displayed as an artist and as a citizen of the world made her a symbolic figure in the struggle for civil rights.

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When Marian Anderson Sang at the Lincoln Memorial, Her Voice Stunned the Crowd, and Her Gold-Trimmed Jacket Dazzled
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Medal of Honor

Third Floor, Double Victory: The African American Military Experience

Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton served in C Company, 24th Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on June 2, 1951, near Chipo-ri, Korea. After his wounded platoon leader was evacuated during an attack to capture Hill 543, Sergeant Charlton “rallied the men” and led them on three separate assaults. During the first assault he eliminated two enemy positions, killing six. Although seriously wounded in the next two assaults, Charlton conducted a fourth assault alone. He was wounded again by a grenade, but silenced the enemy guns before he died. This Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton for his bravery during the Korean War in 1951.

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Mothership

Fourth Floor, Musical Crossroads

The P-Funk Mothership is one of the most iconic stage props in the history of popular music. The Mothership delivered an unmatched visual spectacle for the audience and represented the spirit behind P-Funk’s music. Figuratively, the Mothership emancipated the audience members and “transported” them to a plane free from racism and earthly constraints—it remains a symbol of the liberating power of music.

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Mural from Resurrection City, 1968

Concourse, A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond

The Poor People’s Campaign, a mass movement initiated by Martin Luther King Jr., aimed to alleviate the poverty that ensnared 35 million Americans. This was a multiracial campaign that included American Indians, Latinos and poor whites. Thousands of protesters traveled to Washington, D.C., one month after King’s assassination in May 1968, built a 3,000-person tent city on the National Mall, and stayed for six weeks. Painted on plywood panels, this mural illustrates the interracial nature and diverse concerns of the demonstrators who lobbied for radical change in America’s economic system.

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Oprah Winfrey's Peach Dress and Belt

Concourse 1, C1 053

Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. She is best known as host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired for 25 seasons from 1986 to 2011. Winfrey’s career took off when she moved to Baltimore in 1976 to host "People Are Talking." She was then recruited for a morning show by a TV station in Chicago, where she went on to become the host of her own wildly popular program. In 2011, she launched her own television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and in 2013, President Barack Obama awarded her the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A passionate entrepreneur, Winfrey is the first African American woman billionaire.


This peach dress and pleated chiffon belt were designed by L'Wren Scott, and worn by Oprah Winfrey during the series finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show in May 2011.

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Outfit worn by Carlotta Walls to Little Rock Central High School

Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation, 1876-1968

Carlotta Walls LaNier was the youngest of the nine students to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in September, 1957. She wore this matching skirt and blouse on her first day of school, which was also the first day she was turned away.


Segregationists backed by the state’s Governor Orval Faubus and the Arkansas National Guard would attempt to prevent Walls and her classmates from integrating the school. This led to President Dwight Eisenhower calling on the 101st Airborne Division of the U. S. Army and federalizing the Arkansas National Guard to protect Walls and the other students and ensure their attendance at the school. (Laura Coyle, Head of Cataloging and Digitization, NMAAHC)

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The Youngest of the Little Rock Nine Speaks About Holding on to History
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Point of Pines Slave Cabin, Edisto Island, c. 1853

Concourse, Slavery and Freedom

This cabin stood on the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island in South Carolina from about 1853 to 2013. It served as a shelter or pen to house enslaved African Americans who were considered property. The four walls offered little privacy and no security. No enslaved person was safe. Despite the harsh realities of slavery enslaved men, women and children found ways to make such quarters a home. They forged meaningful relationships, created communities and found ways to survive together. They made the cabin their own.

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President Obama, May 2009

In May 2009, you Jacob Philadelphia checks out President Barack Obama's hair.

Pete Souza, May 2009, ink on photographic paper, NMAAHC

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Shirley Chisholm presidential campaign button

Making a Way Out of No Way, Third Floor

White button with black and white image of Shirley Chisholm inside a red female symbol at center. Above the image, in red letters, is the phrase "Shirley Chisolm for President." Below the image is the quote "...To Represent All Americans."


Chisholm (1924-2005) was the first African American woman elected to Congress, where she served for seven terms beginning in 1969. The daughter of immigrants from Barbados and Guyana, Chisolm had a significant impact on anti-poverty policy and educational reform. In 1971, she was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus.


Chisholm was also the first African American woman to campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1972 with the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed.” Beset by both racist and sexist opposition, she failed to win her party’s nomination, losing to anti-Vietnam War candidate Senator George McGovern. Always an advocate for poor, inner-city residents, Chisolm said, “I am and always will be a catalyst for change” and would go on to serve another 11 years in Congress.

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Southern Railway No. 1200, 1923

Concourse, Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876-1968

This railroad coach, built in 1923 and remodeled in the 1940s was meant for long trips. It has separate sections of reclining seats and rest rooms for whites and blacks. The small lounges were reserved for white passengers. There are no overnight berths. Coach 1200 was owned and operated by the Southern Railway. It ran as a long-distance coach between Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. The attendant for coach passengers was a railway employee, not a Pullman porter.

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The Big Egg, 1968

Fourth Floor, Visual Art and the American Experience

Inspired by the shape of the ellipse, artist Ed Clark (b. 1926) originally painted oval shapes on a traditional rectangular canvas. He later decided to transform the shape of the canvas into an oval itself. By doing so, he became the first American artist to create an oval canvas painting through the implementation of shaped stretcher bars.

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The Proclamation of Emancipation, 1862

Slavery and Freedom

This booklet, "The Proclamation of Emancipation by the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863," was produced in December 1862 specifically for Union soldiers to read and distribute among African Americans

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Vietnam tour jacket with black power embroidery

Concourse 1, C1 053

The Vietnam War took place from 1955 to 1975, often intersecting with the Civil Rights Movement. The African American fight for civil rights empowered and offered momentum to Native American, Latino and Asian American movements, and concepts of “third world liberation” emerged, aligning the plights of people of color in the United States with issues overseas. Important figures like Muhammad Ali compared the U.S.’s actions in Vietnam with the treatment of blacks in the U.S., and Dr. Martin Luther King took a fierce stance against the war while speaking of racial equity. This jacket in the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibition, “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond,” was worn by a black U.S. soldier while on tour in Vietnam, demonstrating that the ideals of American civil rights echoed throughout the world.

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Stories Across Asian Pacific America
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“Lifting as We Climb” Banner, c. 1924

Making a Way Out of No Way, Third Floor

African American women organized on local, state and national levels to promote education, self-help, and support for black communities. This banner, created by the Oklahoma Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs, features the motto of the National Association of Colored Women, founded in 1896.

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Dining

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Sweet Home Cafe

11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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