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Hidden gems inside the National African American Museum

By Muhammad Arham, Contributor

On Feb. 14th, I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. as recommended by my professor. I entered the museum with a giveaway ticket that is available during the weekdays. I met with staff members who welcomed me and explained what the museum offers.

The museum is dedicated to the black community’s contribution to American development. Visitors can come for leisure or to gain new knowledge and experience about African American history. Each floor is structured chronologically based upon different eras in African American history. Starting from the second floor, depictions of African American history through sport, military and art are showcased. On the lower floor, visitors have the chance to explore slavery in detail and the African American effort toward equality during segregation.

Mason Professor Spencer Crew helped curate “Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876-1968,” one of the exhibitions at the museum.

The museum starts with The Journey of Freedom exhibit, which covers the time period from 1400 to 1877. It shows the large array of African American artifacts. The exhibit narrates the life of early unnamed Africans and other artifacts used to hunt and trade. It also depicts slavery during the colonial and revolution era. One of the most touching parts is a cabin that stood on a pine plantation in South Carolina from 1853 to 2013. The cabin was mostly used as a shelter for women and children. It reflected how much African Americans suffered to gain liberty from slavery.

The front desk staff suggested I start from the Contemplative Court situated on the first floor. When I walked down, I heard a waterfall-like sound echoing over the giant hall. In one room was a well designed waterfall and it was a unique way to bring visitors to contemplate African American history. The visitors can enjoy the 6-ft-tall waterfall falling down into a small pond. Each wall highlights quotes by heroic African American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

During Black History Month, The National Museum of African American History and Culture hosts a number of special events, such as staged reading and discussion about African American figures. It is also scheduled to show a film about the Black Panther organization, which was a revolutionary social organization during the Civil Rights era.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has taken a very important role in historical preservation of American history and shaping of national democratic ideals.

“I hope people would become educated about African American history and what our role to build this country,” said a museum volunteer

Photos by Muhammad Arham