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Friday, October 28, 2016

Smithsonian African American Museum



    This week I had a chance to visit the new Smithsonian African American Museum on the Mall in DC.  As the picture above shows its architecture is unlike anything else on the Mall.
    The museum is divided into 2 sections.  The 3 underground floors cover the African American story from 1400 to the present day in a very comprehensive manner.   The upper three floors are designed for research and other exhibits.  The time needed to visit this museum is at least 3-4 hours but you can easily spend most of the day to get the full experience.


 

    The slavery section covering over 250 years is extensive.  The description of human beings as cargo shown above is very telling about how inhumane the slave trade was.


    The exhibit has a listing of various ships that carried slaves to our country.  It shows how many slaves started the trip and how many survived.  It is sobering to see how on some of the ships less than 50% of the slaves survived the trip.  One ship showed only 7 slaves out of 170 survived.


       Slavery during the colonial times and the first 80 years of United States history is covered comprehensively.  The conflict between the words of our founders of "All men being equal" and the fact that many of our founders, like Thomas Jefferson pictured above, were slave owners is hard to reconcile.   The bricks behind the statue of Jefferson show the names of his slaves.  It is hard not to notice the Hemings family names.
     

     African Americans, as slaves and citizens, have fought in all of the wars of our country.  The British and Union forces appealed to slaves to join their forces during the Revolutionary and Civil War to gain their freedom.  Slaves that fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War went to Canada after the war.   In more modern wars, like the two World Wars, African Americans thought that military service might make life post war less segregated.  They were largely disappointed to discover life back in the States changed little after their service.


   The struggles of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders of the 50's and 60's is a history that many of us can remember.


     I spent so much time in the early historical period that I only had time to breeze through the section on entertainment that covers music, movies and television.  The Cadillac pictured above is Chuck Berry's.  Oprah's TV set is also there.


   The final area shown above is the Inauguration of Barack Obama.  The dress is one that Michelle Obama wore.
     I have only touched on a little of what is covered in the museum.  I will return for another visit. Tickets are no longer available by phone or online until after March 2017.  Same day tickets are available at the museum each day starting at 9:15 a.m.


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