Exhibit Showcases Contributions of African Americans

By Gallop-Goodman, Gerda | The Crisis, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview
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Exhibit Showcases Contributions of African Americans


Gallop-Goodman, Gerda, The Crisis


EXHIBITS

When commentator and author Tavis Smiley took a trip to Jamestown, Va., two years ago in honor of its 400th anniversary as the first English settlement in North America, hewas inspired. Jamestown was where African slaves first arrived in America.

"Everyone knows the story of immigrants coming to Ellis Island, but there's another story of Africans who were brought against their will to this country," Smiley said. "This country was built on the backbone of slave labor."

The Smiley Group Inc. partnered with the Cincinnati Museum Center and Arts and Exhibitions Interna-tional to develop America I AM: The African American Imprint. The exhibit opened at the Philadelphia National Constitution Center on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

"I started wrestling with the question [W.E.B.] Du Bois asked: 'Would America have been America without her Negro people?'" said Smiley. "When you leave this exhibit, we want you to be able to answer that question, which is emphatically 'no/ America I AM tells the story about what the African American contribution has been to the nation."

America I AM: The African American Imprint celebrates nearly 500 years of African American contributions to the United States. With the beat of African drums, the melodic chants of Negro spirituals and the soulful stirrings of Motown playing in the background, the exhibit is a journey that explores the struggles and triumphs of African Americans from the beginnings of the nation to the present-day inauguration of the first African American president.

Covering an expansive 15,000 square feet throughout 12 galleries, the exhibit has more than 300 rare historic objects, documents, photo- graphs and multimedia from collec- tions around the world that depict how African Americans have con- tributed and shaped American cul- ture economi- cally, socio- politically, cul- turally and spiritually.

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