Welcome back, CCAC students! I trust you had a restful and
fun-filled winter break. For those of you who started classes a couple of weeks
ago, I hope that you are settling into a nice routine this spring semester, and
for those of you starting back this week, I wish you much success with your studies.
Over my winter holiday, I was fortunate enough to spend time
with some of my out-of-town family and friends, catch up on a bit of reading
and really kick back and relax (for a day, at least). But perhaps the highlight
of my winter break was the short trip I took to our nation’s capital, where I
was able to visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture,
the newest addition to the Smithsonian museum family, for the first time.
As tomorrow marks the first day of Black History Month, I
wanted to share a little about my experience and impressions of this
incredible and highly important institution.
The museum opened its doors for the first time on September
24, 2016, and based on the length of some of the lines I waited in to view many
of the exhibits, it has been a very popular addition.
It’s easy to see why: the museum offers such a thorough
overview of American history through the lens of the African American
experience that you can literally spend all day there (and I did) and still
feel like there is more to see, read, interact with and learn.
The museum itself spans six floors, three of which start
below the ground floor; it is recommended that you start from the bottom and
work your way up to the top. (Helpful tip: wear comfortable shoes!)
As you ascend floor by floor, the exhibits progress onward
through the centuries from slavery to freedom and beyond, offering richly
detailed displays and descriptions on everything from communities and family,
to education and medicine, to civil rights history, to military history, to
music, photography and literature, and so much more.
The museum houses over 37,000 artifacts. To put this in
context, there were only around 3,000 on display for the public, and it still
took me hours to see them all. These amazing artifacts include items such as Harriet
Tubman’s shawl, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, Jesse Owens' cleats and the
original casket of Emmett Till, which was an exhibit of extraordinary gravity and
These collected objects–together with the quotations, the
profiles of prominent leaders and pioneers through the ages, the historical
background and timeline, the photos and the videos–all came together to paint a
powerful picture that allows one to truly experience the lived history of our
ancestors from the earliest days all the way up to recent history. I had a
phenomenal time and will be planning a return trip the next time I’m in the D.C.
While I can’t recommend strongly enough that everyone make the
time to visit this important museum at least once, for those who aren’t visiting
Washington, D.C. any time soon, there are some wonderful museums right here in
Pittsburgh, such as the Heinz History Center and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, that offer a glimpse into African American history in
Western Pennsylvania and throughout the country.
Throughout the month of February and beyond, I encourage you
to seek out opportunities to learn more about Black history and the impact that
it has had on the world and on this country, to get involved in events on your
campuses or in your communities and to engage in celebration of the
achievements of our African American forefathers and mothers. Send me your
pictures, tweets and any interesting, historical facts you may discover at
@QBpresCCAC on Twitter. I love hearing from students!