Last October, my job sent me to attend a conference being held right outside of our nation’s capital. I had to be there Tuesday-Friday so I decided to stay the weekend as well since my best friend lives in the DMV and my job was still covering my return flight! I had been to D.C. lots of times but I hadn’t been there since the Smithsonian debuted the National Museum of African American History and Culture. With only two days to play around, it was the only thing on my list that I felt compelled to do.
Getting a ticket to the museum is no small feat. My bestie and I stalked the online slots and couldn’t get tickets for our desired dates and times. During the week, the museum has walk-up entry meaning you can just show up and get in line. On weekends, timed passes are free but required. Luckily my best friend had tickets for a previous day and the security guards were kind enough to let us in.
The museum is massive. 6 floors (not including the main floor) of African American history and culture. The set up is clever and appropriate. You aren’t required to explore the museum in a particular order however, it is suggested that you start at the bottom and work your way up. This way, you experience the progression of African Americans in sequential order.
Slavery and Freedom (1400 - 1877)
Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876 - 1968
A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond.
During our trip to the museum, I only toured the first 3 floors and the Oprah Winfrey Theatre. We were there for a few hours, yes hours, and did not see the whole museum. The museum hosts over 37,000 artifacts and an overwhelming amount of history. I would highly recommend exploring through multiple visits to get a thorough experience, which is what I plan to do.
Most everything in the museum can be photographed EXCEPT the Emmett Till Memorial. Seeing what my ancestors experienced through slavery in pictures and audio was one thing. But to be in the same room as the coffin of Emmett Till and the rest of his memorial was… a lot. It was an extremely emotional moment for everyone there. The rest of the exhibits explore other aspects of African American culture such as music, sports, entertainment, and pop culture. The museum has a cafe, store, interactive galleries, and a library (open by appointment only).
As a black traveler, I thought it’d be fitting for me to purchase the below souvenir from the store. Before ‘The Green Book’ became a movie, it was an annual travel guide/directory to help African American travelers avoid cities, businesses, and routes that were unsafe due to segregation, Jim Crow laws, and overall violence toward them. My trip to the museum was an amazing one and I cannot wait to return. If you have been, comment below and share your experience. If you haven’t been yet, what’s holding you back? Thanks for reading!