Black History Month: A Visit To The Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History And Culture

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

NMAAHC Gallery at the National Museum of American History
4 Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 633-1000

Hours: Tours, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. daily
Price: Free

The Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History And Culture was established in 2003, and it was President George W. Bush who signed the legislation that allowed the museum to become a part of the Smithsonian Institute. The museum strives to reach beyond the Washington, D. C. area, introducing a larger audience to the contributions of the African American culture. Construction on a new museum on the national mall will begin in 2012 and is expected to be completed in 2015. Currently, the collection is housed on the second floor of the National Museum of American History.

The following activities and exhibits are just in time for Black History Month.  Take advantage of these exhibits and collections at the museum.

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty
Through October 14, 2012
This exhibit is a collection of artifacts from the Smithsonian’s collections and Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.  In addition, the exhibit will explore the slave families who lived with Thomas Jefferson and his family at Monticello. All sorts of interesting items will be on display, such as personal objects and other household tools used by the slaves.

Related: Smithsonian Black History Museum Accepts KKK Robes

Permanent Exhibitions:

History Collection
This collection explores the rich traditions and contributions of African American culture. Aspects explored include areas of religion, politics and issues in society that affect the African American community.  In this collection, you will find items such as historic church furniture, period shackles used on slaves and other historical artifacts.

leadbelly songbook Black History Month: A Visit To The Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History And Culture

Sheet Music, The Leadbelly Songbook, 1962. (credit:

Music and Performing Arts Collection
The Music and Performing Arts Collection features significant items that represent African American artists and their rich contributions in the realm of the performing arts. In this collection, find historic records and instruments once owned by legends such as James Brown and Michael Jackson.  Also on display are period costumes that were once worn by great African American actors for historic theatrical presentations.

Culture Collection
The Culture Collection features cultural aspects that are unique to the African American experience.  Matters such as hair, dance, language and dress are all explored in this collection, which also covers African American creative expression in music, literary arts, religion, language, beauty, culture, entertainment and sports, and includes documents and archival materials and photographs.

Other collections worth exploring: Black Fashion Museum Collection, Ernest C. Withers Photography Collection and the Harriet Tubman Collection.

Related: Best Indoor Attractions In The DC Area

Patrick D. McCoy is a freelance writer in Washington, D. C. where he is active as a performing arts journalist, educator, church music director and radio show host. His work can be found here.


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