African American Museum of History and Culture

On September 24, 2016, the Smithsonian opened up the National Museum of African American History and Culture. After thirteen years of hard work and planning, on the corner of Constitution Avenue and 14th street in the National Mall, the museum’s beautiful architecture, designed by Ghanaian British architect David Adjaye, stands unique amongst the more classical designs of the current architecture.

The initial shape of the building is inspired by the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa. Other elements of the architecture are influenced by traditional Greco-Roman style. The combined elements are to illustrate the unique blend of African American history and culture.

Many influential people came to dedicate the museum, among them musicians, politicians and intellectuals, including President Obama, musicians Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle, and civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.).

Wonder revealed a powerful testimony before his performance: “This cannot go on, all of it any of it. It just can’t go on all of the back and forth the hatred . . . It can’t go on.”  His speech did not  despair, however: “As you climb the stairs of this magnificent testament, as you visit the story of a people of a country of a spirit remember our strength remember our courage. Know that we must come together.”

Obama also attended as the keynote speaker. Of the auspicious event, Obama said, “Too often, we ignored or forgot the stories of millions of others who built this nation just as surely, whose humble eloquence, whose calloused hands, whose steady drive helped to create cities, erect industries, build the arsenals of democracy.”

Those words have never rang more true than they have today with the recent police shootings of African American men in Charlotte, Baton Rouge, and St. Louis.

The museum has a variety of exhibits including “Cultural Expressions,” “Making a Way Out of No Way,” and “Musical Crossroads and Others” with many notable pieces including a slave auction block—mentioned in Obama’s dedication speech—and the dress that Rosa Parks made after she refused to give up her seat on a fateful day in Montgomery, Ala.

“As long as there is a United States of America, now, there will be a National Museum of African American History and Culture, said  Lewis (D-Ga.).  “I tell you I feel like singing the song by Haley Jackson song at the march on Washington over fifty years ago, How We Got Over. There were some who said it couldn’t happen, who said you can’t do it, but we did, we did it.”

Other exhibits include: “A Century in the Making,” “A Changing America,” “Defending Freedom/Defining Freedom,” “Double Victory,” “Everyday Beauty,” “Making a Way Out of No Way,” “Power of Place,” “Slavery and Freedom,” “Sports,” “Taking the Stage,” “Through the African American Lens”, and “Visual Art and the American Experience.” 

This historical monument will last for years to come as a monument to the African Americans who built our country, making it what it is today.