This isn’t our first time in Washington DC but it was our first time visiting the African American Museum. We try to visit every African American memorial site) we find in the cities we visit (hello Knoxville, Chicago, Birmingham, Los Angeles, etc.) but this one was special because of Lead designer David Adjaye. He is a Ghanaian British architect.
We drove into DC (we stayed a little outside of the Towson area so it was an hour and a half drive) and looked for a place to park. I figured we’d have to pay $15 to park in a lot but we found a spot a block away from the African American Museum on the street. Since it was Saturday, there were no time restrictions.
We walked past the World Trade Center and showed up at the museum without passes. It was Solstice Saturday so we were able to go through the metal detectors and walk on in. It’s a pretty large space. Most people start at the bottom (the history starts around 1400 with the colonization of Africans by Europeans. We started on the interactive floor to let the kids play. There was a large set of screens where people can learn how to step, there was a half of car that had a choose-your-own-adventure touch screen game that touched on the legacy and importance and The Greenbook, and a few other things we didn’t get to see with two little ones in tow. What surprised me most was the section on hip hop! It was so validating to see MY generation in a museum setting. Seeing Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and the Stop the Violence Movement highlighted swelled my chest!
When the kids got wiggly, we put them in their toddler Tulas and headed downstairs. As expected, there is lots of information about the Middle Passage and the enslavement of Africans on American soil. What surprised me what the emphasis placed on resistance. As long as Africans have been enslaved on this continent (yes, Mexico and Canada too) there have been people that fought back and escaped. It was nice to see that not all Africans were docile and accepted their lot.
My favorite part of the museum was the focus on Black women’s contributions to the Civil Rights Struggle. Ever since I read My Soul is Rested, I’ve clamored for a more complete truth about recent history. There was a great video that talked about women that worked and organized and were jailed for their work. There was the video of Fannie Lou Hamer at the 1964 Democratic Convention talking about how she was beaten. I knew that women were on the front lines (with the dogs and the hoses and the billy sticks) but I hadn’t realized that when they were jailed, that often meant sexual abuse.
I didn’t try to the cafeteria, but I’d like to. It was very crowded the day we went so I’m thinking of going again before this trip is over. We’ll see.
After the African American Museum, we headed down the mall to see the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. On the way, He got them popscicles so their faces and clothes were covered in stickiness. It’s a good thing museums are used to seeing filthy children! Lol
In the Natural History Museum, the oldest was intrigued with the storytelling of the house painting of the Tshimshia. He made me watch it seven times and cried when I had to drag him away! Remember the storytelling at the Tmasklit Cultural Institute?
After that, we headed down to the ocean area and ended up in a Discovery Room. The topic was pollinators, so they dug in the “dirt”, played in the flowers and cut pieces of wooden fruit but the best part was story time. I knew my oldest would be fine but my youngest really got in on the action! She let the teacher wrap her up like a crystalis, used a straw to ‘drink’ the nectar, and let the woman put butterfly wings on her. They even helped the teacher clean up at the end. If you know the baby, you know that this was HUGE for her.
By the time we left, it was about 8pm so we thought we’d better start the 1.5 hour drive back to the hotel. It was a really fun, FREE day. I can’t wait to return.