DAR Culture: The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-As Black History Month rolls on, we take a moment to remember the most vital times, occurrences, and happenings in our history. This should be done 365 days a year as is, but there's extra emphasis placed on our culture in the month of February. When approached with the idea of doing Black History Month articles, I didn't really want to overdo it. I wanted to only cover the legends of our culture in the DAR Legends series, but seeing that we didn't have a DAR Legends article this past week, I thought we could make up for it with something even better (the last Black History Month DAR Legends article will be coming before the month is out). I have yet to take a look inside the recently opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, but I'm intrigued by it and plan to go one day soon. I have read a number of things about it and heard firsthand accounts on this Museum, so when I received this article from Vaughn on the museum, I knew this would be something interesting to share with our readers. Today, we go in depth inside the museum, for a look at our culture and history enshrined in Washington DC. If you ever doubted that black history and our culture shaped the world, look no further than this article to put those doubts to rest. We are the pioneers. We are the strength behind the history of America. This is black culture.

Article By @KingVaughnJr720

In honor of Black History Month, I would like to take the time to share the amazing experience I had at the latest museum that has been added to the Smithsonian Institute. I am talking about the widely popular National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), also known as the African American Museum in Washington, DC. In September, the NMAAHC had an amazing grand opening that featured former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. The guests included Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Patti Labelle and others. Even George W. Bush and Laura Bush were there to witness history.

Since that time, the Museum has been in such high demand that tickets are still required. However, I was fortunate enough to visit twice. Whenever I have stepped inside of that building, it was always an amazing experience with a very rich history. I have always been excited, because of the journey that we as a society have had to take and the contributions that we have made in this world.

The architecture is revolutionary and very detailed. The color represents African American architecture at its finest and purest form. It is the manifestation of a beautiful vision.

I would like to share some of the highlights of this Museum through each floor.

Level 1: Heritage Hall (Main Entrance)

When you walk into the door, you already have a glimpse of how great the atmosphere is. This floor has the welcome desk, the museum store and it also has a Waterfall inside. It is called the Corona Pavilion.

This section shows the progression that we have made through history. There is an elevator that takes you to the lowest level of the Concourse. As you go down the elevator, you will see some of the most significant years in Black History (Obama's Election, Brown v. Board of Education, Death of MLK, etc). Here is where we reach the beginning:

Part 1: Slavery and Freedom (1400-1877)
-A long look at our dark history and the path to freedom.

Most Notable Artifacts:
-Harriet Tubman's Clothes
-Nat Turner's Bible
-Domestic Slave Trade
-Transatlantic Slave Trade
-Shackles from Slavery
-Slave Cabin
-Civil War Exhibit
-Revolutionary War Exhibit
-Emancipation Proclamation

There was also a display of Benjamin Banneker and Thomas Jefferson. Even though Thomas Jefferson said that he believed all men were created equal, Banneker called him out for owning slaves at the same time, which speaks to the American hypocrisy we've seen over the years anyways. The biggest highlight for me in this section was Nat Turner's Bible along with the garments that Harriet Tubman wore. There is also a display of the Civil War and Revolutionary War as African Americans were enlisted in those wars at the time.

*Part 2: Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation (1876-1968)

Here we reach the time period of segregation and the modern Civil Rights Movement featuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and others. This covers the time period from the Jim Crow era to Rosa Parks' refusal to move, Emmett Till's death, the March on Washington to Dr. King's death.

Most Notable Artifacts:
-Segregated Railcar
-Emmett Till Memorial
-Freedom House
-Lunch Counter
-Rosa Parks Dress
-Civil Rights Movement Display
-Shards of glass and shotgun shell from 16th Street Baptist 
Church in Birmingham, AL.
-Training Aircraft used by Tuskegee Institute
-Ku Klux Klan robe and belt

*Part 3: A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond

Finally, we reach the point of this exhibit where we witness the progression of African American Society from 1968 to where we are now. Unfortunately, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. However, there was also a part of America that was witnessing a shift to more acceptance. In this display, we see the impact of African Americans in entertainment and politics. From Soul Train, Good Times, Cosby Show, etc., this display shows the steps that we have taken in society since 1968. On this floor, you can hear James Brown proudly sing "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud". There are also displays of movie posters such as Foxy Brown and other movies. My favorite part of this display is the wall that shows our impact through each decade from the 70's, 80's, 90's to today. There is also a wall with a giant Public Enemy poster. There are also displays for Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. When it comes to the modern impact, there is also an invitation to former President Barack Obama's legendary 2009 Inauguration, as well as a Black Lives Matter T-Shirt.

Most Notable Artifacts:
-Events of 1968
-Display of Decades
-Public Enemy Wall
-Oprah Display
-Michelle Obama Display
-Black Power Jacket
-Door with rescue markings from Hurricane Katrina
-Black Lives Matter T-Shirt
-Barack Obama 2009 Presidential Inauguration Invitation

This floor also has Oprah Winfrey's Theater and the Sweet Home Cafe, which has a variety of different African American food from different parts of the country. From the North, South, East and West, plenty of food is found here. The cafeteria is amazing.

*Level 2: Explore More! Interactive Gallery
-This is the exclusive interactive part of the museum with an interactive gallery. On this floor, there is a touch screen where you can select an artifact and read about it. There is also an interactive step video. There are also portraits of the Civil Rights Movement and other moments in Black History.

*Level 3: Community Galleries (Power of Place, Making a Way Out of No Way, African American Military, Sports: Leveling the Playing Field)
-This is one of my favorite floors to visit next to the last floor that I will cover later. This is the floor that pays tribute to our impact within the church, the military, education, and sports. As soon as you walk into this gallery, you will see artifacts such as a desk from a small school in the early 1900's. You will also see artifacts from the church during the early 20th century. As you continue to explore, you will also see a display dedicated to the African American military. It is an awesome experience to see how we have made contributions to the different departments of the U.S. Military. The artifact that stood out the most in the military section is the uniform that Marcus Garvey wore. Next, we see an exclusive exhibit for the greatest of all-time, Muhammad Ali. This display has Ali's Robe, his headgear that he wore during training, signed boxing gloves and a ring bell. There are also posters of his fights as well as videos of him. Ali's impact reached far beyond the boxing ring. There is also a section dedicated to the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip-Hop. In this display, you can see the turntables along with vinyl records, and concert posters as well as a video from 1979-80. I would also like to point out the tribute for Shirley Chisolm, the very FIRST Woman to run for President, contrary to the narrative that the media spins to make it look like Hillary Clinton was the first.

As we move along, we reach my favorite part of this floor, the sports section. Here, we see the contributions of African Americans in sports, as we have been known to dominate whatever we touch. In the middle of this section, there is a statue display of the Runners from the 1968 Olympics. An iconic part of not only African American sports, but sports overall. As you go inside, there is an outstanding display of olympic artifacts, from Ali's olympic uniform in 1960, all the way to the Dream Team in 1992 with a special autographed basketball from Magic Johnson. As you dive in deeper, you will see the basketball section, which is the most detailed section of the sports department. As you go inside, you are treated to a wealth of basketball history, with a statue of Michael Jordan's last shot against the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. I also enjoyed the artifacts such as Julius Erving's ABA Basketball along with his 1983 Championship Ring with the 76ers. It was also great to see autographed shoes from Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone, and George Gervin, to name a few. Bill Russell's autographed jersey was another classic piece of memorabilia. You will also see a great statue of Jesse Owens along with Serena and Venus Williams. There are also tributes to Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, Jack Johnson and others. The sports display is called the Michael Jordan Hall for Game Changers.

Most Notable Artifacts:
-Marcus Garvey Uniform
-Muhammad Ali Display
-Olympic Memorabilia
-Michael Jordan Statue
-1968 Olympic Statue
-Venus & Serena Statue
-Jesse Owens Statue
-Bill Russell Jersey
-Shaq's Shoe
-Dr. J ABA Basketball
-1983 NBA Championship Ring
-Tommie Smith's warm up suit from the 1968 Olympics

*Level 4: Cultural Galleries (Musical Crossroads, Taking the Stage)
-This was the coolest floor in the entire museum, followed by the Sports & Military Section on the Third Floor. As I went up to this floor, it felt like I died and went to Heaven. As soon as I got into the Musical Crossroads area, it felt like a party. There was so much to take in, and the artifacts were absolute pieces of beauty. From Chuck Berry's Cadillac to Michael Jackson's outfit from the Jackson 5, James Brown's jumpsuit, to the Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership. Where do I even begin? It looks like I already did. It was a "Who's Who?" of different music legends on display. On each side of the Mothership, you had the outfits that George Clinton and Bootsy Collins wore. Public Enemy's boombox and Run DMC's Adidas were also up for display. Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick's dresses were in the display case along with Whitney's American Music Award. In the middle of the floor was what I call a "Music Wall" with a list of African-American artists throughout history with famous quotes in the middle. Inside of this wall, they showed a series of performances from Marion Anderson, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix all the way to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" performance at the Motown 25 Celebration.

There was even a tribute to Go-Go Music as well as a tribute for Frankie Beverly & Maze. It was African-American music history in its purest form. It was an honor to see how we have been the architects that shaped the landscape of music. There was also an interactive area where you could choose what music you wanted to listen to. From Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson to Biggie Smalls, whatever you wanted they had it. On this same floor, you had the "Taking the Stage" area which pays tribute to our contributions and impact in TV and films. From Good Times to the Cosby Show, along with other shows, we have had a strong presence in the world of television. Modern shows such as Boondocks and Blackish were also featured. There was also a tribute to Black Hollywood. With costumes and posters from Cleopatra Jones, Boyz N The Hood, Sister Act to 12 Years a Slave. There was also a piece highlighting Sidney Poitier's impact in film. I would have to say that this was the most detailed floor along with the previous floor. In the Cultural Expressions section, there are a number of artifacts ranging from Salt & Pepa's earrings, Michael Jordan's Air Jordan 1 Shoes, a Dashiki, among other items.

Most Notable Artifacts:
-Chuck Berry's Cadillac
-Music Wall
-Michael Jackson's Fedora
-Jackson 5 Outfit
-James Brown's Black Cape
-Parliament-Funkadelic Mothership
-Public Enemy Boombox
-Run DMC Sneakers
-JJ Evans Hat
-Flip Wilson's Geraldine Dress
-Earth, Wind & Fire Outfit
-Michael Jordan's Air Jordan 1 Shoes

In conclusion, this magnificent journey through Black History was a dream come true. It is amazing to see how we have been such instrumental pioneers in the shaping of this country. As former President Obama said in the opening ceremony, we are not a side note of history. Black History is American History. It was great to see our history told the right way, instead of being whitewashed by the media. African-Americans have been at the forefront of the most significant movements in American History. We have been the revolutionaries and visionaries behind the biggest events of society. The best thing about this is the fact that people from all other races and cultures enjoy this journey of history as well. It is a fantastic learning experience and makes me proud of my heritage. Without question, this is the most popular museum and the best museum that I have ever been to.

Black History shapes the fabric of American History.



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