See a message from Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston about the Northfield to Selma trip.

Sunday, March 19: Day Four

Sunday, March 19, 2017

by Calla Slayton

Today was my favorite day on our trip so far. Our first stop was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This is the only national museum solely devoted to African American history, culture, and life. The new Smithsonian opened this past September and has a total of 7 floors. Because of its magnitude, we were given a lot of time in the museum to explore and learn. Our second adventure for the day was a monuments tour on the National Mall. We got a personal tour from a park ranger and walked all around D.C.

I was so excited to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture and it did not disappoint. I was amazed at all the artifacts the museum had collected, ranging from a stone where slaves stood during auctions to Michael Jordan’s basketball jersey when he won the NBA championships. On the upper floors, there was a greater focus on more recent historical figures. I particularly liked the exhibit about African American athletes. Sports were considered one of the best places for equality because it was a more even playing field. There were rooms for different sports that showcased famous African American athletes and coaches that influenced the given sport. I realized that while there were many famous African American icons in sports, there were few black coaches. One video I saw noted that for an African American to even get considered for a coaching position, his resume had to be considerably more substantial.

My second highlight was the present-day level in the lower portion of the museum. After tracing through the start of slavery in the 1400s, the exhibit ended in the current day and discussed how African Americans had shaped American culture and life. The sign about black feminism stood out to me. African American women have had to combat racism and sexism from white men and women and black men. They pushed for the feminism to be more intersectional. I wish the museum had showcased more famous female African American leaders, however, the whole exhibit was incredible.

After our museum visit, a thought stuck with me: I was taught so little African American history growing up. I knew the major names like Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmit Till, but I was not taught about Medgar Evers or Audre Lorde. I also wasn’t exposed to famous African American musicians or artists. I’m so grateful I was able to visit this museum, but I also was disappointed to realize how narrow our history curriculum is.

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