Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Promise of the African-American History Museum

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Promise of the African-American History Museum

Article excerpt

There was great anticipation when the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture officially opened its doors a year ago.

The nation looked on as the 99-year-old daughter of a slave rang the opening bell, while the first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, stood at her side. This powerful visual allowed people to connect the past with the present.

Located on the National Mall in the nation's capital, the museum encapsulates the narrative of African-Americans and their journeys to and within the United States.

The museum takes up 400,000 square feet and has seven levels. In its first year, the museum has set new records for the average length of visits, which is four to six hours, and has the largest number of museum charter members.

"What's clear is that the museum has struck a nerve," said Dr. Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "It's become an important symbol, an important metaphor, an important pilgrimage site. We're quite humbled by the way the public and the critical public has embraced the museum"

As the 19th member of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum has attracted more than 2.1 million visitors and possesses 36,000 artifacts. Only 10 percent of these are currently on display, said Dr. Leslie Fenwick, dean emerita and professor of the Howard University School of Education. Fenwick is also a member of the museum's Scholarly Advisory Committee, founded by the late historian Dr. John Hope Franklin.

The museum's exhibits tell many stories of AfricanAmerican history, with a strong focus on education. The museum sheds light on the founding of historically Black colleges and universities, which initiated great change, leading to freedom for many - even as Blacks fought against a socially oppressive agenda.

"You can't tell the story of the African-American experience without talking about HBCUs," said Bunch in an interview with Diverse.

"Virtually every activity that the museum represents, any exhibits, has a connection with the HBCU com- ţ munity" said Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, a founding member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Museum Council and president emeritus of Howard University. "As an example, on one of the levels there is an electronic table where you can digitally dial up moments in civil rights history. And in so many of those moments you'll see sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, where young African-Americans sought access to Woolworth's, or Freedom Riders, where you had young African-American students from HBCUs who participated in voter registration. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.