Is it just me, or has February 2018 been one of the blackest Black history months in a long time?? Between the release of the official portraits for President Obama and Michelle to the release of Black Panther and the movement that it has started, I can’t remember the last time that blackness in its diversity was being celebrated on such a global scale.
There have been many think pieces and articles about how we can celebrate and uplift the Black community outside of one month and after the Wakanda craze dies down. Personally, I’m still trying to work on how I can truly make the realization of Wakanda a daily reality. In the meantime, I have found a place where I – and I believe everyone – should go to remember the long journey that Blacks in the U.S. have made in their bid for self-determination and acknowledgment by all of their humanity and right to equality: the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The museum takes each visitor on a trip on the Transatlantic slave trade across the ocean to the former 13 American colonies. One travels through the centuries to see the creation of the U.S. that we know today from slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement through to present day the first Black President.
I visited the NMAAHC for the second time this past Valentine’s day, which was the perfect culmination of Blackness and l’amour – Black love. It was also the perfect prequel to watching Black Panther in theaters two days later. In this museum, I saw Africans being ripped from their respective countries – being stripped of their family ties, culture, and dignity – and given new identities as property in a foreign land that wasn’t made for them. I saw these new Americans build the wealth of United States with their bare hands, never reaping the profits. I saw Blacks forging a new culture and sacrificing their lives for freedom and basic human rights. And I also saw Blacks accomplishing unimaginable feats in a country that gave them so little. For all of those looking to Wakanda – whether you’re team T’Challah, team Killmonger, or neither – let’s look first at our intertwined histories so that we can continue to build bridges of understanding, compassion, and trust in our similar quests for current and future prosperity.
The NMAAHC has five floors and 12 exhibitions. There are three underground concourse levels (the historical galleries), which cover slavery & freedom, 100 years of segregation, and the U.S. from the late 1960s until present-ish day. The concourse level also houses the museum’s restaurant, which is renowned for serving Black food from all over the country.
There is soooo much to see and so little time, that I’ve actually never made it past the concourse level. The main level (first level) has the welcome desk and a store. Levels two to four have a library (by appointment only) & family history center, community galleries, and culture galleries. Entry to the museum is FREE, and there are currently three types of timed-entry passes: same-day online, same-day availability walkups (only good for weekdays), and advance online. Below I’ve shared some highlights from my most recent trip in the hopes that it will inspire you to visit or at the very least do your own research online.
Slavery and Freedom 1400 – 1877 (Concourse 3)
Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876 – 1968 (Concourse 2)
A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond
If you’ve been to the NMAAHC, share your experience below! Also, let me know if there are other places (physical or online) that I should visit. #WakandaForever #BlackHistoryMonthEveryday