National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History Home of the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the national anthem. The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history.
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As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are temporarily closed. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time and will provide updates here and on our website.

Operating as usual

Can you feel the speed in this photo of skater Judi Oyama competing in the Capitola Classic in 1980? 🛹Judi Oyama, one of...
05/06/2021

Can you feel the speed in this photo of skater Judi Oyama competing in the Capitola Classic in 1980? 🛹

Judi Oyama, one of the few Asian American women in professional skateboarding, began skating as a teen. She was sponsored by Santa Cruz Skateboards in the mid-1970s. Although Oyama could and did skate in a number of styles, her passion was slalom and downhill racing, where she was one of only a few women who raced against the men.

At the age of 43, Oyama won the 2003 Slalom World Championships, and in 2013, she was ranked second in the U.S. and first in the masters division overall. Two years later, Oyama became the first woman to win the N-Men Icon Award, given to Northern California skaters who have made an impact on the sport.

Oyama's skateboarding career and the objects she donated to our museum will be featured in today's #APAHM-focused Social Studies Online session with our curators at 11am ET. You can watch the live or recorded program on Smithsonian Education's YouTube page: https://youtu.be/-hPko2W0J-g

📷: Richard Oyama

200 years ago today: Napoleon Bonaparte dies on the island of St. Helena. Why is there a plaster copy of his death mask ...
05/05/2021

200 years ago today: Napoleon Bonaparte dies on the island of St. Helena. Why is there a plaster copy of his death mask in our numismatic collection? We're so glad you asked: http://s.si.edu/unexpectedmoney

200 years ago today: Napoleon Bonaparte dies on the island of St. Helena. Why is there a plaster copy of his death mask in our numismatic collection? We're so glad you asked: http://s.si.edu/unexpectedmoney

In 2018, audiences gasped when they first saw actress Constance Wu wearing this blue gown in Crazy Rich Asians. The film...
05/05/2021

In 2018, audiences gasped when they first saw actress Constance Wu wearing this blue gown in Crazy Rich Asians. The film went on to earn more than $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

Designed by Marchesa, the gown is a floor-length Grecian-style dress made of light blue tulle with floral applique, a deep V-neck, and a cinched waist. Fun fact: the original version of the dress featured long sleeves, but they were temporarily removed by the film’s production for aesthetic purposes. Marchesa later donated the altered, sleeveless version that appeared in the film to our museum.

Today, this gown helps our experts interpret the history of Asian Americans in entertainment. As curator Theodore S. Gonzalves, Interim Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, points out, “[t]he film’s use of fashion is not merely decorative or secondary. . .The cast’s clothing plays a crucial role in marking social class among its characters—from multi-generational moneyed elites of Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese immigrants), to the nouveau riche strivers of Singapore, to working class Chinese immigrants in the United States and their Asian American model minority progeny."

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing stories from our collections that explore how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have and continue to shape our nation's history. #APAHM

In 2018, audiences gasped when they first saw actress Constance Wu wearing this blue gown in Crazy Rich Asians. The film went on to earn more than $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

Designed by Marchesa, the gown is a floor-length Grecian-style dress made of light blue tulle with floral applique, a deep V-neck, and a cinched waist. Fun fact: the original version of the dress featured long sleeves, but they were temporarily removed by the film’s production for aesthetic purposes. Marchesa later donated the altered, sleeveless version that appeared in the film to our museum.

Today, this gown helps our experts interpret the history of Asian Americans in entertainment. As curator Theodore S. Gonzalves, Interim Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, points out, “[t]he film’s use of fashion is not merely decorative or secondary. . .The cast’s clothing plays a crucial role in marking social class among its characters—from multi-generational moneyed elites of Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese immigrants), to the nouveau riche strivers of Singapore, to working class Chinese immigrants in the United States and their Asian American model minority progeny."

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing stories from our collections that explore how Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have and continue to shape our nation's history. #APAHM

Stuck in a trash compactor? Can't get a hyperdrive working? Need to calculate the odds of successfully navigating an ast...
05/04/2021

Stuck in a trash compactor? Can't get a hyperdrive working? Need to calculate the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field? We know some droids who can help.

May the Fourth be with you! On our blog, explore how stories set in a galaxy far, far away can have huge impact on pop culture today: http://s.si.edu/StarWars40

60 years ago today, on May 4, 1961, an in*******al group of thirteen civil rights activists left Washington, DC, on buse...
05/04/2021

60 years ago today, on May 4, 1961, an in*******al group of thirteen civil rights activists left Washington, DC, on buses bound for New Orleans. Their planned journey—the first Freedom Ride in 1961—was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

The original Freedom Riders were an intergenerational group. Some, like James Peck, had taken part in similar protests against segregation in interstate travel going back to the 1940s. Other riders were younger. Charles Pearson, a 1st-year student at Morehouse College, was 18. John Lewis was already an experienced organizer in 1961, but he was 21 when he joined the protest.

When they left D.C. in early May, the Freedom Riders hoped to travel together through the U.S. South in order to test the Supreme Court's decisions in cases like Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which had declared that segregation on interstate buses, trains, and related facilities was unconstitutional. Despite the court's decisions, racial segregation and other illegal forms of discrimination against Black travelers had largely stayed in place. In 1961, inspired by other civil rights protests like the student sit-in movement, the Freedom Riders hoped to publicly challenge segregation, forcing the federal government to intervene and enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings.

The original Freedom Ride did not complete its journey to New Orleans in 1961. On May 14, one of the group's buses was ambushed, pursued, and firebombed by an angry mob organized by the Ku Klux Klan (K*K) in Anniston, Alabama. Although the Freedom Riders and other passengers were able to escape the burning bus, many were attacked and beaten. On the same day, another mob in Birmingham, Alabama—operating with the approval of the city's police—assaulted the second group of Freedom Riders.

Although the original Freedom Riders ended their planned protest shortly after these attacks, their actions had far-reaching effects. From May until November 1961, more than 400 Americans rode south together on Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides inaugurated a new chapter in the civil rights movement, where people all across the nation, not just Black Americans in the South, began to envision themselves in unity and working together toward a better future for all Americans. Their protest captured national attention, forced the Kennedy administration to intervene, and eventually pushed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to adopt new policies banning segregation in the facilities it oversaw.

📷: CORE button, "Freedom Ride"

60 years ago today, on May 4, 1961, an in*******al group of thirteen civil rights activists left Washington, DC, on buses bound for New Orleans. Their planned journey—the first Freedom Ride in 1961—was organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

The original Freedom Riders were an intergenerational group. Some, like James Peck, had taken part in similar protests against segregation in interstate travel going back to the 1940s. Other riders were younger. Charles Pearson, a 1st-year student at Morehouse College, was 18. John Lewis was already an experienced organizer in 1961, but he was 21 when he joined the protest.

When they left D.C. in early May, the Freedom Riders hoped to travel together through the U.S. South in order to test the Supreme Court's decisions in cases like Morgan v. Virginia (1946) and Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which had declared that segregation on interstate buses, trains, and related facilities was unconstitutional. Despite the court's decisions, racial segregation and other illegal forms of discrimination against Black travelers had largely stayed in place. In 1961, inspired by other civil rights protests like the student sit-in movement, the Freedom Riders hoped to publicly challenge segregation, forcing the federal government to intervene and enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings.

The original Freedom Ride did not complete its journey to New Orleans in 1961. On May 14, one of the group's buses was ambushed, pursued, and firebombed by an angry mob organized by the Ku Klux Klan (K*K) in Anniston, Alabama. Although the Freedom Riders and other passengers were able to escape the burning bus, many were attacked and beaten. On the same day, another mob in Birmingham, Alabama—operating with the approval of the city's police—assaulted the second group of Freedom Riders.

Although the original Freedom Riders ended their planned protest shortly after these attacks, their actions had far-reaching effects. From May until November 1961, more than 400 Americans rode south together on Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides inaugurated a new chapter in the civil rights movement, where people all across the nation, not just Black Americans in the South, began to envision themselves in unity and working together toward a better future for all Americans. Their protest captured national attention, forced the Kennedy administration to intervene, and eventually pushed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to adopt new policies banning segregation in the facilities it oversaw.

📷: CORE button, "Freedom Ride"

Whether you celebrate May Day with flowers & maypoles or protest signs & parades, you're continuing traditions with deep...
05/01/2021
May Day: America's traditional, radical, complicated holiday, Part 1

Whether you celebrate May Day with flowers & maypoles or protest signs & parades, you're continuing traditions with deep roots in U.S. history.

May Day is a holiday that many Americans have celebrated, but relatively few can explain. Depending on your age, you might associate May 1 with dancing around a maypole in elementary school or watching tanks proceed through Moscow's Red Square on the evening news. Surprisingly, much of the confusion...

04/30/2021

Debuting in Marvel Comics in 1969, the Falcon was a groundbreaking African American superhero. On powerful wings, he often fought beside Captain America. This 1975 Slurpee cup is from the collection of our National Museum of American History.

More superhero action in our collections: https://www.si.edu/spotlight/superheroes

In 1971, photographer Pierre Boulat captured this moment—jazz legend Duke Ellington pausing in the rain to sign autograp...
04/29/2021

In 1971, photographer Pierre Boulat captured this moment—jazz legend Duke Ellington pausing in the rain to sign autographs for his fans. The twist? Ellington's fans weren't Americans. This photo was taken during the Duke Ellington orchestra's tour of the U.S.S.R. ✈️

Duke Ellington and his orchestra visited the U.S.S.R in 1971 as part of a cultural exchange program overseen by the U.S. State Department. Ellington and his fellow musicians played dozens of shows over the course of the 33 day diplomatic tour—all of them to sold-out crowds. Ellington was thrilled at the reception his orchestra received abroad. He later told a "New York Times" interviewer: "[t]he concerts ran four or five hours. . .but not a person moved out of a chair the whole time. How often in a lifetime can you get 24 audiences like that?" 🎶

After Ellington returned to the U.S., he receive a letter on White House stationery from President Richard Nixon, who thanked him and told him his performances were "continuing to win friends for the United States through-out the world."

Duke Ellington was born today in 1899. #JazzAppreicationMonth

📷: Duke Ellington Collection

Support of jazz programming is made possible by the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation; The Argus Fund; Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, founding donor of the Smithsonian Jazz Endowment; David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn; Goldman Sachs; and the John Hammond Performance Series Endowment Fund.

"But I had learn that all you give is all you get, So give it all you got." Songs like "Here's to Life" cemented Shirley...
04/28/2021

"But I had learn that all you give is all you get, So give it all you got." Songs like "Here's to Life" cemented Shirley Horne's place in jazz, but her route to fame was anything but ordinary.

On Thursday, April 29, at 7pm ET, join us for The Soulful Shirley Horn, an evening program examining the life of one of jazz’s greatest vocalists, Shirley Horn. Howard University Assistant Professor Jessica Boykin-Settles, will elaborate on Horn’s unique, almost serendipitous, route to fame. Discover Horn’s influences, such as Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner, and learn about her collaborations with artists Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Carmen McRae, and many others. Hear Horn sing renditions of songs from the Great American Songbook and beyond, and understand what a unique gift she left for us all: https://s.si.edu/2RajOVu

The Soulful Shirley Horn is produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Associates. Note: the program will be ticketed and costs $20 to register. #JazzAppreicationMonth

📷: Snapshot of Shirley Horne recording from the John and Devra Hall Levy Collection in our Archives Center

Support of jazz programming is made possible by the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation; The Argus Fund; Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, founding donor of the Smithsonian Jazz Endowment; David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn; Goldman Sachs; and the John Hammond Performance Series Endowment Fund.

"But I had learn that all you give is all you get, So give it all you got." Songs like "Here's to Life" cemented Shirley Horne's place in jazz, but her route to fame was anything but ordinary.

On Thursday, April 29, at 7pm ET, join us for The Soulful Shirley Horn, an evening program examining the life of one of jazz’s greatest vocalists, Shirley Horn. Howard University Assistant Professor Jessica Boykin-Settles, will elaborate on Horn’s unique, almost serendipitous, route to fame. Discover Horn’s influences, such as Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner, and learn about her collaborations with artists Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Carmen McRae, and many others. Hear Horn sing renditions of songs from the Great American Songbook and beyond, and understand what a unique gift she left for us all: https://s.si.edu/2RajOVu

The Soulful Shirley Horn is produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Associates. Note: the program will be ticketed and costs $20 to register. #JazzAppreicationMonth

📷: Snapshot of Shirley Horne recording from the John and Devra Hall Levy Collection in our Archives Center

Support of jazz programming is made possible by the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation; The Argus Fund; Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, founding donor of the Smithsonian Jazz Endowment; David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn; Goldman Sachs; and the John Hammond Performance Series Endowment Fund.

In 1964, First Lady Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson embarked on a whistle-stop tour from Washington, D.C., to Ne...
04/26/2021

In 1964, First Lady Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson embarked on a whistle-stop tour from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, Louisiana, campaigning on her husband's behalf and defending his presidential record, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This Tuesday (4/27) at 6:30pm ET, join our Elizabeth MacMillan Director Anthea M. Hartig and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's Director Melissa Chiu for a free, virtual conversation with author Julia Sweig examining the life and legacy of First Lady Johnson: https://s.si.edu/3tUfzvL

📷: Objects from the Lady Bird Special, Johnson's 1964 whistle-stop tour

In 1964, First Lady Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson embarked on a whistle-stop tour from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, Louisiana, campaigning on her husband's behalf and defending his presidential record, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This Tuesday (4/27) at 6:30pm ET, join our Elizabeth MacMillan Director Anthea M. Hartig and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's Director Melissa Chiu for a free, virtual conversation with author Julia Sweig examining the life and legacy of First Lady Johnson: https://s.si.edu/3tUfzvL

📷: Objects from the Lady Bird Special, Johnson's 1964 whistle-stop tour

Before she inspired an Oscar award-winning film, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey—"The Mother of the Blues"—was born on this day, mo...
04/26/2021

Before she inspired an Oscar award-winning film, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey—"The Mother of the Blues"—was born on this day, most likely in 1886.

Rainey was a pioneering blues singer and entertainer, who became known as "The Mother of the Blues." Early in her career, Rainey was popular on the theatrical circuit known as TOBA (Theater Owners Booking Association). Between 1923 and 1928, she made more than 100 recordings for her record label, Paramount. Rainey toured and recorded up to her retirement in 1935, and she continued to inspire people after her death in 1939. (In 1982, August Wilson imagined a recording session of the song "Black Bottom" in his play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”).

The earliest blues recordings, made in the 1920s, were labeled “race records” and marketed to Black audiences. Today the blues is recognized as the primary root of 20th-century American popular music, influencing jazz, rhythm and blues, country, and rock and roll.

This undated photo of Rainey and her band comes from jazz scholar Duncan Schiedt's collection of photography, now preserved in our Archives Center. Our collection also includes rare 78-rpm disks with some of Rainey's 1920s recordings—including “Dream Blues” and “Lost Wandering Blues”—as well as her signed royalty agreement for the song "Walking Blues." You can take a closer look at that agreement on our site: https://s.si.edu/3aFEvQf . #JazzAppreciationMonth

Support of jazz programming is made possible by the LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation; The Argus Fund; Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, founding donor of the Smithsonian Jazz Endowment; David C. Frederick and Sophia Lynn; Goldman Sachs; and the John Hammond Performance Series Endowment Fund.

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Washington D.C., DC
20560

Metro: The Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations, on Metrorail's Blue and Orange lines, are located near the Mall. The use of public transportation is recommended as free parking is limited and posted times are enforced.

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Here on Facebook, we share objects from our collections, updates from our experts, and our passion for American history. We love to hear your personal connections to American history! The museum is free and open daily except December 25. Feel free to ask us for visiting tips and recommendations! Find us elsewhere: -Blog: http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog -Twitter: http://twitter.com/amhistorymuseum -Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amhistorymuseum - Newsletter: http://s.si.edu/Newsletter While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat other users with respect. The Smithsonian also monitors and may remove posts consistent with its terms of use. - Our terms of use: http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen - Our Privacy Policy: http://www.si.edu/Privacy

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The National Museum of American History collects and preserves more than 1.8 million artifacts—all true national treasures. We take care of everything from the original Star-Spangled Banner and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat to Dizzy Gillespie’s angled trumpet and Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz (returning to display in 2018, stay tuned). Our collections form a fascinating mosaic of American life and comprise the greatest single collection of American history.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, we explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history. We help people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future.

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