The National Museum of African American History and Culture

By Christina Maness

For many travelers looking to uncover the story of America, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with its plethora of Smithsonian museums and galleries, is often considered a good place to start.

However, for over 170 years since the Smithsonian Institution was first established by President James K. Polk in 1846, key people and events have been omitted from that story. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens this weekend, is part of an effort to revise that story and include African Americans.

Currently it’s the only national museum devoted exclusively to preserving African American history and culture. Its opening, in the context of the current social landscape, comes at a critical time. 

The Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that systemic racism and violence is still used in attempts to write people out of the story of America. The looming US election could deliver a world leader who crafts some of the darkest chapters of intolerance this planet has ever seen.

If, as Mark Twain says, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” then many of us could use a trip to DC to explore this newest addition to the National Mall.

We could use a closer view of the museum exterior’s 3,600 bronze panels, modeled after the work of enslaved craftsmen in 19th-century New Orleans. Inside, we could take a journey from African Americans origins in Africa through slavery and the civil rights era, and then on into the Harlem Renaissance and today.

We could open our minds to how slaves slept by seeing an actual cabin from Point of Pines Plantation in South Carolina. We could imagine Segregation-era train travel while viewing Southern Railway car number 1200, used to carry black passengers through the southeast US. 

Moving into today we could simply celebrate what unites us, like music and sports. We could see the Mothership, a 1,200-pound stage prop used by George Clinton’s funk band, The Parliament-Funkadelic. Or view exhibits honoring living athletic legends like Michael Jordan or Serena Williams.

Advance reservations for timed entry admission are already booked through November this year, so people are more than ready to experience this museum. However, as I watch the news of protests from yet another police shooting and listen to Congressmen perpetuate hate, I’m reminded that the people who sorely need travel have yet to book their ticket.  

Plan your visit:

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, located at 200 15th Street NW in Washington, D.C., opens to the public on Saturday, September 24th. Tickets for opening weekend are fully booked. Starting from Monday, September 26th, the museum will distribute same-day passes at 9:15 a.m. each day, on a first-come, first-served basis. Timed entry passes for future dates can be booked here.

While traveling the world as a digital nomad, Christina found it difficult to find the fine travel experiences that satisfied her conscience. She started The Wayward Post with Ziggy to help travelers find those travel experiences that are driving positive change and to give the Wayward hat tip to travel-related brands doing the right thing. All while amplifying the work of amazing writers and photographers.

When she's not writing for The Wayward Post, you'll find her working with do-good brands run by amazing people with the marketing agency, ZATWIC. Or maybe just drinking a craft cocktail.  Follow her on Twitter.

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