The long-awaited opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture generated worldwide attention. We’ve gathered some of the most interesting, compelling and thought-provoking coverage to highlight the museum’s collections and the exhibitions that tell the African American story.
The Washington Post, Sept. 11, 2016
Martin Luther King Jr.’s children called the museum with an intriguing invitation.
They had something they knew the National Museum of African American History and Culture wanted. So in January, curator Rex Ellis headed to Atlanta, slipped on a pair of white gloves, and carefully turned the pages of King’s traveling Bible. The public last saw it during President Obama’s second inauguration when it was borrowed from the family.
“It was heavier than I thought it would be,” remembers Ellis, the museum’s associate director of curatorial affairs. “Not only was it the weight of the object itself but the weight of what it was. You’re holding it like it’s a baby. I was uncomfortable holding it for long.” Read more from Geoff Edgars for the Washington Post.
The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2016
Appropriately for a public museum at the heart of Washington’s cultural landscape, the museum’s creators did not want to build a space for a black audience alone, but for all Americans. In the spirit of Langston Hughes’s poem “I, Too,” their message is a powerful declaration: The African-American story is an American story, as central to the country’s narrative as any other, and understanding black history and culture is essential to understanding American history and culture. View the photo essay and video from the New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 15, 2016
In what’s shaping up to be the marquee evnt of the fall art season, the Smithsonian Institution is making final preparations to open an eight-story, $540 million museum on the last five acres available on the Mall, in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Read more from Kelly Crow for The Wall Street Journal (pdf)
The Washington Post, Sept. 15, 2016
…As the first black president, Obama is amply represented through the museum’s exhibits and galleries. There are buttons and signs from his campaign, and a program from an inaugural ball. There is also a black dress with red roses, made by African American designer Tracy Reese, that Michelle Obama wore during the 50th anniversary ceremony commemorating the March on Washington. Read more from Krissah Thompson for The Washington Post.
Time, Sept.15, 2016
If the kitchen is often the heart of the home, in the African American community it’s also the soul. Food is central to the black cultural experience, whether it’s dished out during times of celebration, mourning, comfort or joy—or shared between a family on a regular old Wednesday night. Read more from Maya Rhodan for Time.
Washingtonian, Sept 15, 2016
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is not a one-day museum. Unlike its peer institutions along the Mall, which whether by ubiquity or scope of the collection can be consumed in a single visit, this new museum packs in so much history—more than 600 years, in fact—it’ll take a few trips to take in the entire presentation. Read more from Benjamin Freed for Washigntonian.
NBC4-Washington, Sept, 16, 2016
…The museum contains about 85,000 square feet of exhibition space on five floors, and there are nearly 3,000 objects.
While larger items like a prison tower from Louisiana’s Angola prison or the Tuskegee Airmen’s Stearman Kaydet are hard to miss, some of the museum’s smaller artifacts can be overlooked.
Here are the stories behind some of the museum’s smallest artifacts. Read more from Erica Jones for NBC4-Washington.
Washingtonian, Sept, 16, 2016
When the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture opens September 24, it will feature an array of multimedia displays, photography, and film. But you’ll have to wait until spring 2017 for a 3-D exhibit developed by Google engineers. Google spokesperson Roya Soleimani says it will be worth the wait. Read more from Maxine Joselow for Washingtonian.
NPR-Weekend Edition, Sept. 17, 2016
A photo in Washington’s new African-American history museum brings back a forgotten chapter of the civil rights era: the jailing in a Georgia stockade of young black girls who protested segregation. Listen to the story or read the transcript from NPR.
NPR – All Things Considered, Sept. 17, 2016
The history of African-Americans and the California Gold Rush is a complicated one, and often overlooked. But it’s part of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Listen to the story or read the transcript from NPR.
The Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2016
When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003, it had no collection. Since then, museum leaders have acquired approximately 40,000 objects, of which some 3,500 will be on view. They document the tragedy and triumph of the African American experience, from the Colonial era of slavery to the election of the nation’s first African American president. Here are 36 of the most emotionally and historically resonant treasures in the collection that no visitor should miss. Read more from Phillip Kennicott and Peggy McGlone for The Washington Post.
Smithsonian.com, Sept. 21, 2016
The words and images on what is known as “The Hunger Wall” are stark, but visceral. “Brothers and Sisters, Hunger is Real,” screams one panel in blood-red letters. “Chicano Power” and “Cuba Libre,” roars another. The voices are from some of the nearly 3,500 people who descended upon Washington D.C.’s National Mall in May, 1968 for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. Read more from Allison Keyes for Smithsonian.com.
The Washington Post, Sept. 21, 2016
The prison cell is 6 feet by 9 feet. Its old metal bars evoke a William Faulkner truism: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
The cell was once on a patch of land owned by the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In the 19th century, that same land was home to a slave plantation. Both the prison and the plantation share the nickname Angola, referring to the African country from which its slaves came. Read more from Krissah Thompson for The Washington Post.
The Washington Post, Sept. 21, 2016
Historian Lonnie G. Bunch III was a teenager when he heard the story of Emmett Till, the Chicago 14-year-old who was beaten and killed in 1955 for whistling at a white woman during a visit to Mississippi.
“Like Emmett, I grew up in the North and had Southern relatives. For males of my age, [his] was a cautionary tale,” Bunch said. “I didn’t know the name, but I knew about a Northern kid who went South, ran afoul of the etiquette of the white South and was murdered.” Read more from Krissah Thompson for The Washington Post.
“We don’t bring it out much,” Barbara Jean Person, Creekmore-Porter’s mother, told him.
Each of the photos in Capt. William A. Prickitt’s album could fit in a locket: headshots of 17 black soldiers who served under the Union Army officer during the Civil War, most of their names handwritten on the mat surrounding the images.
At just 2 inches tall, the square, leather-bound album itself could be easily misplaced among the more than 35,000 artifacts it will join at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens this week in Washington, D.C.
Its size belies its historical importance: It’s a rare instance of original photographs of African-American soldiers whose identity is documented. Read more from Cheryl Corley for All Things Considered.
History Grabs the Headlines, But the Quiet Authority of the Art Gallery in the New Smithsonian Museum Speaks Volumes
Entering the shiny new lobby of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, one might think it a brilliant showcase for contemporary art.Across the ceiling sprawls an abstract bronze, copper and brass sculpture by Chicago’s Richard Hunt. On one wall is a five-paneled work from D.C. color field artist Sam Gilliam. On another, a relief of recycled tires from Chakaia Booker, who wowed Washington last year with an installation at the splashy reopening of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Read more from Roger Catlin for Smithsonian.com.
Smithsonian.com, Sept. 30, 2016
The curators of the Cultural Expressions exhibition collected stories and artifacts and brilliantly packed 200 years into one round room. Read more from Jackson Landers for Smithsonian.com.
The New York Post, October 16, 2016
In 1953, when Ann Lowe received a commission to create a wedding gown for society swan Jacqueline Bouvier, she was thrilled. Lowe, an African-American designer who was a favorite of the society set, had been hired to dress the woman of the hour, the entire bridal party and Jackie’s mother. But 10 days before Jackie and Sen. John F. Kennedy were to say “I do,” a water pipe broke and flooded Lowe’s Madison Avenue studio, destroying 10 of the 15 frocks, including the bride’s elaborate dress, which had taken two months to make.
In between her tears, Lowe, then 55, ordered more ivory French taffeta and candy-pink silk faille, and corralled her seamstresses to work all day. Jackie’s dress, with its classic portrait neckline and bouffant skirt embellished with wax flowers, went on to become one of the most iconic wedding gowns in history, but, decades later, Lowe would die broke and unknown at age 82. Read more from Raquel Laneri for the New York Post.
The Washington Post, Oct. 19
This month marks two historic occasions: the inauguration of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall and the 25th anniversary of the confirmation of Clarence Thomas as the second black Supreme Court justice. Ideally, the two historic moments should converge in a celebration of the journey of progress of African Americans up from slavery to their rightful place among the pantheon of American life and culture. But it’s obvious that won’t be the case. Read more from Armstrong Williams for the opinion pages of The Washington Post.
Posted: 21 October 2016