America’s dark past: The National African American History Museum

A walk through history

Earlier today, I had the amazing opportunity to explore the National Museum of African American History and I stumbled across this Martin Luther King Jr. Quote.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

I got to thinking, and it made me grateful for a few things. This week has been one of the most politically divisive in a while, and the nation is fighting to understand what’s unfolding in our capitol from the hands of a vicious few. However, I want to take a minute to thank my friends who went out into the streets in the past couple weeks and protested Donald Trump’s inauguration, or marched for women’s rights, or engaged in a thoughtful discussion about the rights of our friends and neighbors that are under immense threat. It’s in these minutes of courage that we overcome the hours of doubt that have seemingly begun to surround us.

I wanted to share my experience at the African American History Museum today with you all who take the time to read what I write through the photos included herein. Earlier this week, after Donald Trump signed his executive action banning refugees from our country, the African Union lambasted the US for being willing to take in Africans “as slaves but not as refugees”. Taking this into consideration, my experience at the National Museum of African American History took on a completely different meaning.

Included in this photo series, you’ll see the diner stools from Greensboro, North Carolina, where brave African Americans sat, and took actions that allowed us to stand up for our own rights today. You’ll see an aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, which allowed young African American boys and girls to give flight to their own dreams. You’ll see the whips that scarred the backs of slaves that worked hard and cold land, to make room for the cities and towns that we live in today, supported by cotton that they picked. You’ll see the chains that restricted my ancestors while they were brought from West Africa. You’ll see the robe Muhammad Ali wore, a man who bravely refused to fight in the Vietnam war, proudly proclaiming “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”.

However, what I want most for you to see is that we’re not so far removed from the history of the last century. We live in its commentary and consequence each and every day. As these next couple of months wears on, we’ll see our country in a bizarre and scary light, but the one thought that can guide us all is the fact that we aren’t so far removed from our past and we can learn from it.

Iron tools used to keeps slaves from moving during transport.
Whips used on slaves
A cabin that existed in a plantation that housed slaves.
Seats from a diner in Greensboro, NC, where a sit in occurred.
A railroad car from the 50’s that would have been segregated.
Shrapnel from the 16th St. church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963
The recorder that broadcast Malcolm X’s voice to millions.
A Tuskegee plane.
A dress worn by Rosa Parks.
A bust of Jesse Owens posing during the 1963 olympics.
Jackie Robinson’s bat and jersey. Forty-two; the only number to be retired league wide.
Muhammad Ali’s robe, worn before fights.

Not included herein are a few things, but the most important omission has been photos of Emit Till’s casket. Seeing it in person is an extremely powerful experience, and walking past it in the dimly lit room allows one to vicariously experience the pain that African Americans experienced, and the fear they lived in each day.

Seeing the whole museum took me about 2 hours, and I believe I saw mostly everything.

I can’t suggest a visit more.

Culture writer featured in Noteworthy, The Writing Cooperative, USA Today & Olustories. Comedian & Musician. Thinker.