Blavity Exclusive: Inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture
September 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm
The time has almost come for the official unveiling of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). During media preview day, Blavity exclusively toured the museum ahead of its public grand opening.
“We brought you here to be moved,” said Fleur Paysour, a member from the office of public affairs and media.
And that we were.
Upon arriving at the museum, it felt like being at your grandma’s house. You never know what she’s cooking up but you know it’s going to be good.
Let me start by saying this. A visit to the museum is not something you can rush, and you should plan to spend at least two hours of your day there. The building is bigger than any of us could have ever imagined with every inch dedicated to our contributions in America. The museum is broken down into two parts. Up top, there are three floors containing galleries. Below, you can tour four concourses.
When you plan your visit be sure to wear comfortable shoes, you’re gonna need them.
The curators of the museum have done an amazing job of bridging the past with the future. Take for instance the sports section. Younger generations will discover the legacy of early black Olympians. Walking through the sports gallery you realize how much we take for granted watching our favorite athletes play in safe spaces. Before today, they were once forced to stand alone in their own leagues or stand in the bleachers.
Wilma Rudolph is featured as well as the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
There were also several breathtaking exhibits leaving you speechless like the iconic 1968 Olympic black power salute.
A statue commemorates the moment with the words, “Level the playing field” as a backdrop offering a bold reminder.
As an HBCU graduate, I enjoyed the section preserving the importance of all-black institutions.
From Spelman College to Tennessee State University you can feel our HBCU presence in the exhibits.
The curators didn’t stop there, though.
Around the museum, you will see sprinkles of HBCU artifacts.
As much as the NMAAHC showcases our victories, there are subtle reminders of our past struggles. You may even find yourself emotionally taken aback by some of the items on display. Below the ground exhibits take you from “Slavery and Freedom” to the “Era of Segregation”, then “1968 and Beyond”.
In the slavery exhibit, you will find shackles, a whip, along with a slave cabin.
Growing up in the South, I have seen lots of plantations and slavery exhibits, but never had I come face-to-face with an actual whip.
The sight of it alone brought tears and internal pain imagining the horror of our ancestors having the humanity whipped from their bodies.
The nightmarish dehumanization of being whipped is hard to ignore with a relic of the past right in front of you.
Although these photos serve the experience no justice, the museum is remarkable at reminding us how far we have traveled and the fight must definitely continue.
The tour guides suggest visitors start with the below the ground exhibits and work your way up. I agree. Doing so allows you to end on a high note with President Barack Obama as the most poignant figure in recent history.
I ended my tour on an emotional yet grateful journey.
Make sure you go online to get your timed entry passes. The museum is now accepting requests for November and December. The museum officially opens September 24th.
Are you planning a visit?