Hannah Collings – Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Fifty Clarion University students journeyed to the nation’s capital March 27 to tour the newest Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
The Clarion University Black Student Union organized the trip to the NMAAHC, which opened in September.
This museum contains more than 400 years of history. The building is three stories high, and 60 percent of it is underground. The NMAAHC is a three-tiered, gold building, symbolizing crowns pictured in West Africa Yoruban art.
H istory exhibits begin on the lowest floor, three stories below ground. Museum visitors descend to the start of the history exhibit via a glass elevator. There are dates on the walls surrounding the elevator. These dates go back to the 16th century.
Exhibits begin with the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when Africans were abducted from their countries and sold into slavery in North America. One of the exhibits is a cutaway model of a slave ship.
This voyage to North America, called the middle passage, was deadly to many slaves. The model depicts how slaves were packed closely together in these ships.
These exhibits move through history, highlighting famous African American figures such as Crispus Attucks, the first man to die in the Boston Massacre before the American Revolution and Nat Turner, leader of a slave rebellion in 1831.
This museum owns a copy of Nat Turner’s personal Bible.
The lowest level of the museum has dark walls and low lighting. Each successive floor has brighter-colored walls and lighting, moving from the slave trade through such periods as the civil war, emancipation, reconstruction and civil rights.
More contemporary African-American heroes are also chronicled. The NMAAHC owns a dress which used to belong to Rosa Parks.
Parks was an early figure in the civil rights movement, whose refusal to stand when a white man asked for her seat on a bus inspired others. Her actions influenced the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a movement in which African Americans refused to use busses as transportation due to practices of segregation.
The NMAAHC displays a miniature Quran belonging to Malcolm X. He was a black nationalist who converted to Islam in prison and was a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr.
The museum also honored King. It displayed many of his quotes and showed videos of his speeches. A metal bucket in which King soaked his feet after the civil rights march on Washington in 1963 remains displayed.
Ending the history exhibits of the museum was a display of the administration of President Barack Obama.
To give visitors a chance to reflect on what they learned throughout their experience, the museum has several small rooms throughout, inviting patrons to share their own stories and a contemplative court in which visitors can sit on benches around an indoor waterfall.
The second and third floors of the museum are interactive exhibits where visitors can learn about topics in the museum in greater detail, including African Americans’ contribution to the arts. Visitors may also participate in activities, such as learning to step dance.
The NMAAHC is free and open to the public in Washington, D.C.