MUST VISIT: National Museum of African American History and Culture
Hands down, the most important place to visit when celebrating Black History. It’s all there. Expect to spend a few days at the museum taking it all in.
I was never more proud when I walked out of that museum. Proud of my heritage, my culture, my lineage. Proud to see people of all different races visiting the museum and learning about our story. I was proud of how far we’ve come and the struggles we’ve endured. They say if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going. The museum was a profound reminder of what my ancestors endured. I am so grateful to Oprah Winfrey and everyone else who donated large sums of money so the magnificent museum could be built.
What you'll see:
You start on the bottom floor. There, you learn about the transatlantic slave trade and the middle passage. There are exhibits and videos that discuss the African tribes who sold their prisoners of war to Europeans in exchange for guns.
The second floor highlights life for blacks in America post slavery. There is a big focus on the widespread lynchings which occurred as well as the terror blacks endured during their fight for civil rights and the right to vote. Emmett Till’s casket is on this floor, along with a video of his mother explaining why she chose to leave the casket open during his funeral.
The third floor highlights post-Civil-Rights movement successes, with an emphasis on the black power movement, the Black Panthers, and the incorporation of blacks into the entertainment industry such as Oprah Windfrey and hip hop music. It ends with President Barack Obama’s road to presidency
Don't miss the upper floors:
The upper floors highlight more of the culture. There are exhibits about famous athletes, inventors, singers and even statues of Venus and Serena. There are displays about historically black organizations, fraternities and sororities, famous black journalists, and blacks influence in the military. You definitely don’t want to miss the upper floors, but you may want to reserve it for your second day of visiting the museum. I was exhausted and tired of standing after visiting the bottom three floors during my first day.
There are also great videos weaved into the exhibits. If you plan to watch those, you might want to reserve three days for visiting the museum.
Whatever you do, do not leave the museum without eating in the café! The food is a little pricey, but worth it! Executive Chef Jerome Grant whips up classic dishes from the south, Louisiana, the northern states and the west. Much of it is authentic soul food such as candied yams, green beans, gumbo, fried catfish. That’s just some of the food on the menu. There are desserts too including red velvet cupcakes. The entire eating area has displays about African American cuisine, which are also very informative. The only sad part is there aren't any to-go boxes.
Meditate in the Serenity Room:
The museum is a lot to take in. Some of the history presented is quite depressing, and unreal that it even happened. The iconic serenity room, where a fountain flows from the ceiling, helps you to sit in peace and reflect on it all. It helps you process the information, and internalize it how you see fit, before you head back into the world, outside the museum’s walls.
The quote on the wall reads, “We are determined …to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – Martin Luther King Jr., 1955.
How to get in:
Passes are not required weekdays September - February. It’s the best times to go. Passes are required on Saturdays and Sundays during these months, and for groups with 10 or more people. Free passes are offered online three months in advance. They’re released the first Wednesday of each month, for groups of six or less. Same day passes for weekends are released at 6:30 am online.
During peak season, March-August, passes are required for entry before 1 pm, and on weekend. After 1 pm weekdays, walk-in entry is permitted.
It’s a struggle to get the same day and advanced passed to get into the museum, but it’s worth it!