Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture A museum that seeks to understand American history through the lens of the African American experience.

Welcome to our page! Please feel free to share thoughts about our posts, ask us questions, or tell us about your visit. We hope you’ll contribute to this interactive forum and to our ongoing conversation about the work we do to further the Smithsonian's mission to increase and diffuse knowledge. 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 posts on Facebook consistent with its policy at http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen, and reserves the right to remove content in accordance with its Terms of Use. Finally, be aware that Facebook is a third party website with its own terms of use and privacy policy. The Smithsonian does not control Facebook’s collection, use, or dissemination of information. To protect your privacy, do not include any personally identifiable information (PII) that you do not wish to be made available to the general public. To protect the privacy of others, please do not post any PII without the express permission of the person involved. In addition, the Smithsonian may archive materials posted on this website pursuant to its document retention policies. By posting content, you are giving the Smithsonian and those authorized by the Smithsonian permission to use or modify it for any educational, promotional, or other standard museum purpose, in media of all kinds whether now known or later developed. Any data that users post on this site or that the Smithsonian collects from this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policies which can be found at: http://www.si.edu/termsofuse/ and http://www.si.edu/privacy/. Facebook terms of use: https://www.facebook.com/policies?ref=pf Facebook privacy policy: https://www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation

June Millicent Jordan’s literary works and activism have been influential in the ongoing fight for recognition and justi...
04/06/2020

June Millicent Jordan’s literary works and activism have been influential in the ongoing fight for recognition and justice for marginalized communities. Jordan self-identified as bisexual+ and her works explored gender, race, immigration, and representation. She professed a profound desire to be her authentic self: “to tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political in its most profound way.” Jordan was a prolific writer who authored more than twenty-five major works of poetry, fiction, and essays along with numerous children’s books. Her poetry, which was often autobiographical, is renowned for its emphasis on identity and personal, lived experience.

Jordan openly supported African American Vernacular English (AAVE, or black English) and its usage, denouncing the assertion that “white English” is standard English. She stated, “there are three qualities of black English— the presence of life, voice, and clarity— that intensify to a distinctive black value system that we became excited about and self-consciously tried to maintain." Toni Morrison described Jordan’s career as “a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.” #HiddenHerstory #NationalPoetryMonth#APeoplesJourney

Gil Scott-Heron was a poet and spoken word recording artist whose humor-laced, sharp critiques of politics, racism and m...
04/06/2020

Gil Scott-Heron was a poet and spoken word recording artist whose humor-laced, sharp critiques of politics, racism and mass media made him a notable voice of black protest culture for decades.

He described himself as a “bluesologist”, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.” Drawing inspiration from his grandmother, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Sterling Brown, Scott-Heron crafted spoken word with political undertones. His music, which fused jazz, blues, and soul, influenced and foreshadowed music genres such as hip-hop and neo soul.

One of his most well-known compositions, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” became a slogan used by the Black Power Movement. Scott-Heron received a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement award for his accomplishments. #NationalPoetryMonth #JazzAppreciationMonth #APeoplesJourney

Maxine Sullivan used her voice to represent the Bronx community she and other jazz artists called home. In 1937, her swi...
04/03/2020

Maxine Sullivan used her voice to represent the Bronx community she and other jazz artists called home. In 1937, her swinging version of the traditional Scottish folk song "Loch Lomond" catapulted her to stardom.

The song, her only big hit, followed her over the course of a 40-year career, but behind the sweet voice was a woman juggling multiple roles and a passion for giving back to the Bronx community she loved. She a jazz musician, but she was also a mother, a wife, an entertainer, and an active community organizer.

From 1940 through 1941, Maxine and then-husband John Kirby headlined the popular CBS radio show "Flow Gently, Sweet Rhythm." The pair were among the first African Americans to star on a nationally syndicated radio program. In the 1950s, Maxine opted towards staying home with her children and fourth husband Cliff Jackson as performing opportunities slowed down.

By 1958, she stepped away from the stage to throw herself into life with her family and the Bronx Community. In place of an active performing schedule, Maxine joined the Parent Teacher Association and other service organizations and found a new passion that stayed with her for the rest of her life. After Jackson’s death, Maxine transformed their house on Stebbins Avenue into a community center for jazz education.

Maxine opened The House That Jazz Built in 1975 with programs and concerts focused on exposing children in the South Bronx to jazz and its history in the Bronx. The House That Jazz Built continued to be a large part of her life through the 1980s. Her accomplishments as a singer earned the respect of her peers, but perhaps, her more meaningful contributions came through her work as a community advocate. #HiddenHerstory #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

"Sometimes in our lives, We all have pain. We all have sorrow. But, if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow...
04/03/2020

"Sometimes in our lives, We all have pain. We all have sorrow. But, if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow."

We are saddened by the loss of singer-songwriter and musician Bill Withers. His songs are known for inspiring hope in the hearts of many.

04/03/2020
#JazzAppreciationMonth Archival Compilation

In honor of #JazzAppreciationMonth we are sharing archival footage of jazz legends. Watch selected home movies from Cab Calloway, performances by Count Basie, Dolly Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, and an interview with Dizzy Gillespie.

We're excited to celebrate the extraordinary history of jazz throughout the month of April!

Video Credits: Cab Calloway Home Movies, Gift of Cabella Calloway Langsam; Kriesler Bandstand, Shotgun Boogie/Ella Fitzgerald, Kinoscope; Swing, Dolly Jones, Oscar Michaux, Pearl Bowser Collection; Karate B Roll, Band with John Blair and Ron Tagnashi, Pearl Bowser Collection; Alice Coltrane, Pearl Bowser Collection; Black and Tan Fantasy, Fredi Washington and Duke Ellington, Ernie Smith Jazz Collection; Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, Pearl Bowser Collection; Interview with Dizzy Gillespie, jazz musician, Archives. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries; Count Basie 1965 BBC

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was initially a piece of poetry written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899. The first public pe...
04/03/2020

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was initially a piece of poetry written by James Weldon Johnson in 1899.

The first public performance of the piece took place in Jacksonville, Florida at the Edwin M. Stanton School where Johnson was the Principal at the time. Five hundred school children were gathered to recite the poem to commemorate the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln on February 12th, 1900.

It was five years later that Johnson’s brother, John Johnson, put music to the words. It was one of many songs they produced to counter stereotypes of African Americans brought about from early 1900s musical theater.

By 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had adopted Lift Every Voice and Sing as their official song and proclaimed it “The Negro National Anthem.”

While African American women have been present in jazz since its inception, they are often omitted from the larger narra...
04/02/2020

While African American women have been present in jazz since its inception, they are often omitted from the larger narrative in the history of the genre. Black women musicians fought harsh stereotypes levied against their gender, race, and musical abilities. As African American women took to the stage, they challenged both racist and sexist ideals that reflected the social and political landscape. Throughout the interwar years, between the end of the WWI and the beginning of the WWII, black women musicians and jazz bands complicated progressive beliefs about codes of respectability. The parlors and dancehalls where jazz performances occurred were often shunned as immoral places women should not frequent.

These women unpinned traditionally male-dominated spaces within entertainment, as women vocalists within all-men bands was common–but not women musicians. As a result, black women musicians were ridiculed in newspaper reviews as “mannish” and “incapable.” Women as band members challenged the classification of black women as either prostitutes or maids when outside of the domestic sphere. Jim Crow laws strictly forbade the performances of white women with black bands; however, as Sherrie Tucker notes in her book, Swing Shift: “All-Girl Bands of the 1940s,” black women often did perform as musicians or singers with all-white bands because often the ire of white supremacy did not extend into spaces where white men were still in control. Performers like Mary Lou Williams, Emma “Ginger” Smock, Melba Liston, Lil Hardin Armstrong, and Vi Redd, set the stage by navigating sexist and racist terrain, achieving some degree of celebrity and paving the way for modern jazz musicians like Regina Carter, Teri Lyne Carrington, and Esperanza Spalding. #HiddenHerstory #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

Jazz pianist, educator, and New Orleans native Ellis Marsalis recorded and released almost twenty of his own albums thro...
04/02/2020

Jazz pianist, educator, and New Orleans native Ellis Marsalis recorded and released almost twenty of his own albums throughout his career.

He served as a founding member of the American Jazz quintet, which charted new direction for New Orleans jazz in the 1950s. After graduating from New Orleans-based HBCU Dillard University and serving in the Marine Corps, he went on to influence the careers of numerous musicians as a leading educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

His students included Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Harry Connick Jr., and four of his sons – Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis. Marsalis was a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

Marsalis expressed pride in the jazz emerging from New Orleans: “at a time when individualism is becoming an endangered species, the sounds of the Bayou represent a celebration of the individual. Put simply, without it life would be emptier.” #APeoplesJourney

B is for Brave. Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the Sou...
04/02/2020

B is for Brave.

Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. On her first day, four U.S. Marshals escorted Ruby and her mother to William Frantz Elementary School when local officials refused to protect her. For the entire school year only one teacher, Barbara Henry, agreed to teach Ruby, and a classroom by herself due to the withdrawal of students by their parents from her class.

A Is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book is an alphabet board book that celebrates what makes us unique as individuals and connects us as humans. Each letter offers a description of twenty-six traits, a question inviting the reader to examine how he or she experiences it in daily life, and lively illustrations. The book supports understanding and development of each child’s healthy racial identity, the joy of human diversity and inclusion, a sense of justice, and children’s capacity to act for their own and others’ fair treatment.

Learn more: bit.ly/2UDXLGm #APeoplesJourney #InternationalChildrensBookDay #SmithsonianEdu

The month of April celebrates #NationalPoetryMonth and #JazzAppreciationMonth. Both art forms have been used as a vehicl...
04/02/2020

The month of April celebrates #NationalPoetryMonth and #JazzAppreciationMonth. Both art forms have been used as a vehicle to give voice to the emotions and experiences of African American life and culture. Joined by rhythm and syncopation, the two art forms flourished alongside each other during the Cultural Renaissance, Beat Movement, and Black Arts Movement. This month we are excited to explore the dynamic histories of Jazz and Poetry. #NationalPoetryMonth #JazzAppreciationMonth⠀

📸 Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Cabella Calloway Langsam

Phillis Wheatley was the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. She was born in West Africa and sold ...
04/01/2020

Phillis Wheatley was the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. She was born in West Africa and sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston. The Wheatleys encouraged her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they took note of her talent. In 1768, Wheatley wrote “To The King’s Most Excellent Majesty,” in which she praised King George III for repealing the Stamp Act. In 1770, she gained significant acclaim for her poetic tribute to evangelist George Whitefield.

Many colonists were skeptical that an African slave was writing “excellent” poetry. Wheatley was forced to defend her authorship in court in 1772. After being examined by a group of Boston luminaries, including John Erving, John Hancock, and Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson, and Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver, it was concluded that she had written the poems ascribed to her. After the publication of her book, Poems on Various Subjects, in 1773, Wheatley was emancipated. She was honored by many of America’s founding fathers, including George Washington. She married in 1778. #HiddenHerstory #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

The month of April celebrates #NationalPoetryMonth and #JazzAppreciationMonth. Both art forms have been used as a vehicl...
04/01/2020

The month of April celebrates #NationalPoetryMonth and #JazzAppreciationMonth.

Both art forms have been used as a vehicle to give voice to the emotions and experiences of African American life and culture. Joined by rhythm and syncopation, the two art forms flourished alongside each other during the Cultural Renaissance, the Beat Movement, and the Black Arts Movement. This month we are excited to explore the dynamic histories of Jazz and Poetry.

Jazz pianist and singer Hazel Scott was a musical prodigy who discovered the piano at the age of 3. She was born in Port...
03/31/2020

Jazz pianist and singer Hazel Scott was a musical prodigy who discovered the piano at the age of 3. She was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on June 11, 1920. At the age of eight, she was admitted to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Known as the "Darling of Café Society," Scott captivated audiences across America and broke barriers in the music and film industries. #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

#OnThisDay in 1988, Toni Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved. The novel, which was set in the years afte...
03/31/2020

#OnThisDay in 1988, Toni Morrison won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved.

The novel, which was set in the years after the Civil War, was inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, an African American woman who escaped slavery in Kentucky in late 1856. The novel addressed themes including mother-daughter relationships, the psychological effects of slavery, manhood, and universal pain. Beloved was adopted as a 1998 movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey and directed by Jonathan Demme.

Upon accepting the Frederic G. Melcher Book Award that same year, Morrison that explained her motivation for writing Beloved was to memorialize enslaved Africans who were forced into slavery and forcefully brought to the United States: “there is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about...the absences of slaves. There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road...and because a place doesn’t exist...the book had to.” #HiddenHerstory #APeoplesJourney

Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena was an American-born activist who worked her way into the upper echelons of the UNIA...
03/31/2020

Madame Maymie Leona Turpeau de Mena was an American-born activist who worked her way into the upper echelons of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association).

She played a significant role in keeping the organization after Marcus Garvey, the founder of the organization, was convicted of mail fraud and deported from the United States. After Garvey moved to London, de Mena focused her efforts on women’s and children’s issues in Jamaica.

She advocated for women’s suffrage and birth control rights and established trade organizations to help working-class women gain upward economic mobility. #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

Through the modern dance company he founded in 1958, visionary choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) influenced a genera...
03/30/2020

Through the modern dance company he founded in 1958, visionary choreographer Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) influenced a generation of African American dance artists and transformed the landscape of American concert dance. In celebrated works such as “Revelations” (1960), Ailey fused elements of ballet and modern dance with African American themes, movements, and music, from jazz and blues to spirituals. Principal dancers Judith Jamison, who later succeeded Ailey as artistic director, exemplified the company’s powerful and expressive performances.

Our Jack Mitchell Alvin Ailey Collection includes 8,288 b&w negatives, 2,106 color slides and transparencies, and 339 b&w prints depicting private photo sessions, repertory by Alvin Ailey and a wide range of choreographers and iconic solo performers. The entire digitized photography collection has been recently made available to the public online via the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives. The collection is jointly owned by our Museum and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation: s.si.edu/2Dw8hGe.

For a limited time, you can stream full performances of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on their website: alvinailey.org/ailey-all-access #APeoplesJourney #APeoplesGroove

Afro-Cuban songstress Celia Cruz was one of the few women to succeed in the male-dominated world of Salsa music. She was...
03/30/2020

Afro-Cuban songstress Celia Cruz was one of the few women to succeed in the male-dominated world of Salsa music.

She was well known for her colorful costumes and accessories. Her flamboyant attire was matched by her rich, powerful voice and vibrant personality which enthralled audiences everywhere.

Known as the “Queen of Salsa,” she was one of the most influential salsa artists of the 20th century. #HiddenHerstory #DiasporaLens

Denise Oliver-Velez is a black radical feminist, journalist, and cultural anthropologist. She co-founded Washington, D.C...
03/30/2020

Denise Oliver-Velez is a black radical feminist, journalist, and cultural anthropologist.

She co-founded Washington, D.C.’s WPFW-FM, which was the Pacifica Foundation’s first minority-controlled station. She was a member of the Black Panther Party, and was the first woman on the Central Committee for the Young Lords Party, an organization created to fight for the socio-political and community empowerment of Puerto Rican people.

While serving as the Minister of Economic Development, she spoke out against the ‘Revolutionary Machismo’ that was originally part of the organization’s 13-Point Program and Platform, stating: “Machismo is reactionary, so you can’t have revolutionary machismo. We women weren’t having it. So we made a very different kind of statement. ‘We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism.”

Oliver-Velez is currently an adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at SUNY New Paltz. #HiddenHerstory #APeoplesJourney #ANationsStory

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Welcome to our page! Please feel free to share thoughts about our posts, ask us questions, or tell us about your visit. We hope you’ll contribute to this interactive forum and to our ongoing conversation about the work we do to further the Smithsonian's mission to increase and diffuse knowledge.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. 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 posts on Facebook consistent with its policy at http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen, and reserves the right to remove content in accordance with its Terms of Use. Finally, be aware that Facebook is a third party website with its own terms of use and privacy policy. The Smithsonian does not control Facebook’s collection, use, or dissemination of information. To protect your privacy, do not include any personally identifiable information (PII) that you do not wish to be made available to the general public. To protect the privacy of others, please do not post any PII without the express permission of the person involved. In addition, the Smithsonian may archive materials posted on this website pursuant to its document retention policies. By posting content, you are giving the Smithsonian and those authorized by the Smithsonian permission to use or modify it for any educational, promotional, or other standard museum purpose, in media of all kinds whether now known or later developed. Any data that users post on this site or that the Smithsonian collects from this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policies which can be found at: http://www.si.edu/termsofuse/ and http://www.si.edu/privacy/. Facebook terms of use: https://www.facebook.com/policies?ref=pf Facebook privacy policy: https://www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation

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