Black History Month

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Article by: Dr. Quintin Bullock, CCAC President

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 significance.

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. area.

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!

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