By Aleah Trotman ‘18
Lift every voice and sing! The National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. is now open for the world to see.
The large museum is full of exhibits that honor and showcase the history of African American people. Lyrics from “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson (also known as the “Black National Anthem”) describe the museum perfectly. From the “faith that the dark past taught us,” to “the hope that the present has brought us,” the overwhelming amount of information that the museum offers, allows visitors to experience African American culture like never before.
The museum has been decades in the making. Discussions of opening a museum for African American culture has been in the works since the early 2000s and its location was decided in 2006. The museum finally opened in January 2016. Celebrities and political figures alike donated artifacts, money, and knowledge to help the museum expand. People such as Oprah Winfrey, Phylicia Rashad, and former President Barak Obama, all participated in helping the museum become a success.
The creation of the museum has allowed younger generations of Americans to see the growth of the country as a whole, and the layout of the museum contributes to the overall experience. As I ascended from the bottom floors to the top floors, I felt the growth and progress of African American people.
Jesse Bickerton ’19, who visited the museum before, said, “The museum was designed in such a way that as you went from the bottom to the top, it told a big story of the past to the present. This made me feel like I was walking through history.” She continued, “In the very bottom floor, where it talked about slavery and segregation, I felt really angry at that people that discriminated against African Americans. In the upper floors, where it talked about music, TV, art, and film, it felt really awesome to be surrounded by so much African American culture. It was so cool to learn about people I didn’t know about that did such amazing things.”
There are many items to see on each floor. From slave auction blocks to slave testimonies, to trophies and Olympic gold medals won by African American athletes.
I was sent on an emotional rollercoaster as I took everything in. I was hit with moments of pride and joy when looking at exhibits that celebrate music and dance, but after passing exhibits that showcased the hardships and tragedies that African Americans have gone through, I was left upset and heartbroken.
Although learning about such sad moments in history might be hard to handle, it is necessary to know where you came from in order to know where you’re going.
Anika Henry ’17 said, “The museum could possibly bring forth a way to ease the uneducated into the reality of today’s attacks.” She continued, “To me personally, it’s another big step in the right way for the African American community. The more educated people are about what happened and what is happening in our community, the easier it’ll be for people to see where we need to go.”
Tickets are free and available online on the museum’s website, but the waitlist for tickets is about two months long. A limited number of same day tickets are also available at the museum until 1 pm.
The trip to D.C. is worth it. I recommend everyone to go and experience the museum for themselves. It is a real eye opener, and it allowed me to gain a higher understanding of how far African American people have come, and it strengthened my pride as an African American.