The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September 2016, after more than a century of development. Designed to "tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture," it forms the only national museum in the USA that is exclusively devoted to the documentation of African American history and culture. It stands on Washington's National Mall as the newest, nineteenth museum of the Smithsonian Institute. Established by an Act of Congress in 2003, the museum has had over one million visitors since its opening.
The displays in the museum are divided into two halves. There are three history galleries, charting key events in the history of America, with specific reference to the experience of the African American community. These galleries begin with displays about Africa prior to the slave trade, showcasing the rich culture and advanced nature of civilisations there. The displays then move on to enslavement, the Middle Passage and Plantation Life. In all of these displays, the experience of the enslaved people is central to the interpretation, and much use is made of archive material, providing quotations which bring the voices of the enslaved to the fore of the narrative.
The displays in the history galleries go on to interpret abolition, reconstruction, emancipation and Civil Rights. They end with the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009. The displays make use of a wealth of collections, some 36,000 objects now belong to the museum. The key to the narrative throughout all of these displays is the central position of African Americans to the national history of America.
The other side of the museum consists of three 'community galleries.' Again these focus on the achievements of African Americans, through themes like sport, military, theatre, television, literature and art. Here, some of the museum's 'celebrity' artefacts, including Michael Jordan's NBA finals jersey and one of Jimi Hendrix's vests. This section of the museum also houses the 'Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Centre,’ where visitors can look at digitised archive material with expert guidance to explore their own family tree.
The museum was founded in 1984 by Dr James Cameron, a self-taught historian and public speaker. The only known survivor of a lynching, Dr Cameron used his survival experience to provide visitors with a unique view of ‘living history’. Alongside this, he expanded the museum’s exhibits and employed staff, attracting local, national and international visitors. Unfortunately, the site closed following Dr Cameron’s passing in 2006 and the economic downturn of 2008. Since 2012 America’s Black Holocaust Museum has existed as a virtual museum. It seeks to educate the public of injustices suffered by people of African-American heritage, while providing visitors with an opportunity to rethink their assumptions about race and racism. It offers a range of online exhibitions, including one about the history of the museum, and another on the perpetuation of slavery through three centuries.
There are nine exhibitions available to be accessed within the virtual museum, seven of which are a chronological study of the history of Africans in America. All of them feature the museum’s four key themes: remembrance, resistance, redemption and reconciliation. Beginning with a view of life in Africa prior to enslavement, they end with an exhibition entitled ‘Now- Free at Last?’ which considers the experiences of African Americans from the 1980s up to the present day. In addition to the chronological displays, there are three special exhibitions, two of which are concerned with the victims of lynching. Within the website there are photographs, and images of objects, alongside suggestions of further reading material. There is also a section of relevant and important news articles. The virtual museum is a member of the international Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and the Association of African American Museums. The museum runs a programme of events and speakers, and is due to re-open in a physical building in Milwaukee during the Autumn of 2018.
Previously called the Robert Robinson Library, the museum was opened as the Alexandria Black History Research Centre in 1983. In 1987, the Alexandria City Council placed the operation of the museum under the office of Historic Alexandria, providing a large increase in funding which allowed for the building to be completed in 1989. Further expansion followed in 1995, when the Watson Reading Room, with books, documents, and periodicals on African American culture, was added. The museum's mission is to inform and enrich the lives of Alexandria’s residents and visitors about the diversity of the African American experience in Alexandria, Virginia. The museum also operates the Alexandria African American Heritage Park, a nine-acre park, which contains a one-acre nineteenth-century African-American cemetery that was buried under a city landfill in the 1960s.
The museum has several exhibitions, displaying collections of African objects, including wood carvings from the west coast of Africa, as well as collections from African American churches, photographs, and documents. The Museum also runs events related to African cultural and heritage such as guest lectures. The museum curates a range of temporary exhibition covering a variety of topics. For example, the Sharon J Frazier and Linwood M. Smith Dollhouse collection has featured in one such exhibition with miniatures of buildings and rooms capturing the forgotten businesses and people who were important to Alexandria’s development in the last century. A particular emphasis was also placed on African American culture and important institutions such as family, church, and school.
The African-American Panoramic Experience (APEX) Museum aims to accurately interpret and present history from an African-American perspective in order to help all visitors understand and appreciate the contributions of African-Americans to America and the wider world. It was founded in 1978, and in 2018 curated a programme of events to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
The museum contains a range of exhibitions. These begin with a chronological display exploring the history of Africa. Another examines the experience of enslaved Africans in Georgia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Other displays bring the narrative up to date, looking at women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and the history of the local district Sweet Auburn, which has become a hub for African-Americans in Georgia. The museum has many artefacts including photographs, art, and traditional African material culture.
Formerly the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site was constructed in 1875 and opened as the Banneker-Douglass Museum (BDM) in 1984. It was named after Benjamin Banneker – a free-born African American scientist and mathematician. He protested strongly against slavery, and compared the fight of the colonists to that of the enslaved people in America when writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1791. The other namesake was Frederick Douglass, a political activist, writer, and famous abolitionist who documented his experiences both escaping from and fighting against slavery. The museum is dedicated to preserving Maryland’s African American Heritage. It contains a range of both permanent and temporary exhibitions. In light of this legacy, the BDM focuses on a community-based approach to building collections and exhibitions and in providing tours, public programs, and other services. The museum's permanent exhibition is a celebration of African Americans in Maryland; providing an overview of African American history in Maryland from 1633 to the present day. Specifically the exhibition looks at Maryland’s first African American settler, Mathias De Sousa. It includes Benjamin Banneker’s almanacs, used as an anti-slavery protest to Thomas Jefferson, as well as a recording of Frederick Douglass’s speeches against racism and slavery. The museum presently partners with Anne Arundel County Public Library, offering programs and workshops at AACPL branches. It also offers guided tours of both the permanent and temporary exhibition.
Situated on the grounds of a nineteenth-century merchant’s house and slave quarters, Kura Hulanda is an anthropological museum that focuses on the cultures of Curacao. Its displays examine a wide range of subjects from the origins of man, the African slave trade, and West African Empires, to Pre-Colombian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art. The museum is located in the central harbour of Willemstad, where Dutch merchants traded enslaved Africans and commercial goods. Kura Hulanda Museum demonstrates the influence that African and other diverse cultural heritages have had on Curaçaoan and Caribbean societies through time to the present day. It is managed by the Curaçao Tourist Board. The museum's exhibits trace Curaçaoans African roots and the legacy of the slave trade in the region with collections of art and artefacts from West Africa, illustrating the African influences on Caribbean culture. Displays chart African civilisations, the Middle Passage, life on the plantations, abolition and apprenticeship. There is a model of a slave ship, alongside examples of African bronze work, and instruments that showcase the brutal nature of enslavement. Other displays bring the narrative closer to the present day, examining the Civil Rights movement in the USA with panels relating to the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Open since April 2018, the Legacy Museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved Africans were imprisoned. The site is located between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were transported through at the height of the domestic slave trade. Today it is a short walk from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in the heart of downtown Montgomery, Alabama. The museum’s mission is to acknowledge and present the legacies of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation in the United States. The Legacy Museum is used to educate people about long-standing racial inequality in America and prompt them to search for truth and reconciliation with the aim of developing real solutions to contemporary problems. Its managing organisation, the Equal Justice Initiative, was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson and was initially set up to help the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. In continuing this spirit of active community engagement, the museum also runs concerts and academic summits, and actively participates in human rights campaigning in Alabama.
The museum exhibition begins by showing replica constructions of slave pens, accompanied by unique audio and visual effects, attempting to allow visitors to empathise with an imprisoned slave waiting to be sold at the nearby auction block. There are also first-person accounts from enslaved people, portrayed on film by actors. Alongside these audio-visual experiences there are also more traditional exhibits that examine America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy, drawing connections across generations of Americans impacted by racial difference. These exhibits feature artefacts and archival materials. The museum also includes pieces of contemporary art, commissioned with creative partners to depict contemporary responses to the ongoing legacies of slavery and racial inequalities.
The River Road African American Museum (RRAAM) was originally housed at Tezcuco Plantation, and opened in 1994. Due to a fire, it was relocated to its present site, a restored Caribbean-style cottage from the 1890s, in 2003. Before the museum opened, there was nowhere that charted the narrative of African American experience in the rural counties along the Mississippi. It developed its collections through donations; of buildings, objects, family documents, photographs, maps and pieces of art. The RRAAM opened with the aim of educating its visitors about the lives of Africans Americans who lived and worked on the sugar and rice plantations in the region. It has since been recognised as an international repository for African American culture in Louisiana. It hosts a varied public programme alongside its permanent displays, including touring exhibitions, concerts, lectures and school workshops.
The museum's website outlines its focus as 'more than just a slavery museum'; its key themes throughout the permanent exhibits are freedom, resilience and reconciliation. Five of the museum's displays focus on the contribution of African influence in key areas of Louisiana culture, including jazz, cuisine, medicine, art and inventions.
One key exhibit features a collection of slave inventories from local plantations- the museum lists the names of over 5,000 enslaved people. 'Free People of Colour' follows on from this as an exhibit which showcases the hundreds of people who obtained their freedom in Ascension. Outside, the RRAAM has built a 'Freedom Garden' which reveals the history of Louisiana's involvement in the Underground Railroad using a range of plants that would have been cultivated by the enslaved, both in Africa and on the plantations.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.
The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.
Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.
The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.
The Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American Museum was established by Sadie Roberts-Joseph in 2001. The museum is named for Odell S. Williams, a well-loved educator in the Baton Rouge area. It was founded as Joseph identified a need in the local community for a cultural space that celebrated African American history.
The museum has a range of vibrant exhibits, showcasing the contributions of local African Americans through history, across a range of different fields. These include, music, cuisine, education, politics and business. Visitors can step onboard an authentic bus from 1953 and explore Baton Rouge's role in the civil rights movement.
The museum's display on agriculture looks at the early plantation economy of the area, and the key crops that were grown then. It also explores the experience of the enslaved Africans that who used as labour on those plantations.
It has a broad events programme, and runs the area's annual Juneteenth event.
The National Civil Rights Museum is housed in the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on 4 April, 1968. It was founded in 1991 with the mission of sharing and raising awareness about the lessons and legacies from the Civil Rights Movement. The museum makes use of historic collections and a range of interactive exhibits, including film and audio, to tell these stories. Recently renovated in 2013-14, the museum is one of the top rated by the American Alliance of Museums and was a founding member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
The museum has five permanent exhibitions that include 260 artefacts, 40 film installations, oral histories and interactive media to guide visitors through five centuries of history. The exhibitions explore Civil Rights protest techniques- including sit ins, bus boycotts and freedom rides- as well as the Black Power movement and the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. and its aftermath on the Civil Rights movement.
The first exhibition that visitors enter explores the longer 'Culture of Resistance' that was present in the United States prior to the Civil Rights movement, as seen through resistance to the system of slavery that dominated the country for centuries. Focussing on the period 1619-1869, the exhibition includes large scale interactive maps that emphasise the global impact of the transatlantic slave trade. There are films and art installations in the form of sculptures that show the terrible conditions inflicted on the enslaved people. Illuminated channels provide statistics and further information, including the number of people captured, goods cultivated and wealth created.
The museum also has facilities for temporary exhibitions, both on the site and online, and runs an immersive education programme for both children and adults.
The San Diego Museum of Man is an anthropological museum that originated from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition that celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. Over the last century, the museum has expanded and developed in its original buildings at San Diego's Balboa Park. It took its present name in 1978. The museum's mission is to inspire human connections by exploring human experiences, around the world and through the ages.
The museum features twelve permanent exhibitions that explore a range of themes linking to human development and cultures. These include 'Ancient Egypt', 'Living with Animals' which explores the human practice of keeping pets, and 'PostSecret' which examines the concept of secrecy throughout societies.
Another permanent exhibition, 'Race: Are we so different?' explores the distinctions of race and the origins of racism in America. A timeline maps instances of racism throughout the nation, and includes focusses on Native American communities, as well as enslaved Africans, Civil Rights and the Jim Crow era. Text interpretation also includes biological facts about race and genetics to address long held historic views about hierarchies of race.
Initially a temporary exhibition, it was so successful with visitors the museum decided to house it permanently. 'Race: Are we so different?' was developed in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The exhibition features heavily in the museum's school programmes in providing a platform to promote discussion of feeling, thinking, acting, and reflecting on race and identity, and to raise awareness and build positive relationships across communities in America today.