“Did you know?”: My experience at the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture

Written by Patience Adamu

Last week, I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. I had to wake up at 6:30am to “order” my free tickets. That is how popular this museum is. A majority of the people in the museum were not Black. And dare I say, I felt like white folks were taking up too much space at this museum. Not just by existing, but by literally taking up space.

Lunch was amazing. They served soul food in the museum’s restaurant. And they were so blackity-black-black about it, and in the most American way possible. The lunchroom was a continuation of the museum.

As someone who is well versed on the experience of Africans in North America, I thought I would be pretty well-versed in the history exhibited in the museum. But I felt like an imposter… honestly. I did not know everything. And although I am Black, as an African, a Nigerian, I am very far from African-American.

I had never learned too much about sit-ins and the role they played in the Civil Rights Movement. Black folks would sit-in restaurants that were white-only and asked to be served, often refusing to leave the restaurant until served. In the museum, they had a restaurant table with seats in it so you could actually “sit-in” and learn about the protests. Genius.

My one criticism is that the museum focused almost exclusively on overt forms of racism (how American of them), less on the continued impact of covert races and discrimination. But I think that’s just how museums are, it’s less about nuance and more about the fulsome experience.

I recommend the museum to anyone who goes to the DMV area. I was so glad I did it.

Museum - points of arrival