AAA Editor Notes
National Museum of African American History & Culture is at 1400 Constitution Ave. N.W., bounded by Madison Dr., Constitution Ave. and 14th and 15th streets. The 19th Smithsonian museum tells the American story through the African American lens. It is a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped shape the nation. Twelve inaugural exhibitions explore the themes of history, community, music, cultural expression and visual arts.
The building has two distinct elements: the “Corona,” the signature exterior feature that consists of 3,600 bronze-colored, cast-aluminum panels weighing a total of 230 tons, and the “Porch,” the location of the main museum entrance on Madison Drive. A reflecting pool at the south entry has a design that makes it easy to approach. Within Central Hall, the building's primary public space, are a welcome desk and the Orientation Theater.
Exhibits depict major periods of African American history, beginning with the origins in Africa and continuing through slavery, reconstruction, the civil rights era, the Harlem Renaissance and into the 21st century. Highlights include civil rights activist Harriet Tubman's personal hymnal, a lace shawl given to her by Queen Victoria and family photographs from her funeral; a slave cabin from Edisto Island, S.C.; a segregated railroad car; and Chuck Berry's red Cadillac convertible. Works by such artists as Charles Alston, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett and Jacob Lawrence are also on display.
A schedule of public programs and events includes performances, films, demonstrations, theater and symposia.