Reflections from the Diversity Initiative Visit to NMAAHC
On March 12, the Department of Anthropology Diversity Initiative sponsored a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with a group discussion following at a nearby restaurant. We had 28 people participate including: graduate and undergraduate students, staff, alumni, prospective students, and family members.
Participants shared their reflections from the visit describing what was most meaningful, what they learned, and what was surprizing, some of which are highlighted below:
"I was blown away by the actual extent Jim Crow had in more or less all aspects of a person of color's life. Also how long it was (almost a century) so people were born, lived, and died without ever experiencing sharing a fountain with a white person."
"This history is not only kept within the displays, but instilled within all senses of the visitor."
"On the first floor of the history galleries, there is a wall of bricks behind a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Each brick is marked with the name of one of the people he owned, and there's a plaque noting that Jefferson owned over 600 individuals. I spent four years at the University of Virginia (the school Thomas Jefferson built), and despite the school's emphasis on its history, there is hardly ever any mention of the people who actually constructed the school and the people Jefferson owned."
"Viewing Emmett Till's casket was incredibly moving. Even processing up to the exhibit felt like it might have in the church at his funeral."
"I was surprised to learn how stepping was started I did not realize it had roots in African traditional dance - I thought it was just started in the U.S."
"I was surprised at both how much about this history I had learned in public school, and how much I hadn't, especially with regard to post Civil War history."
"History is arbitrary, learning varies by region and time period, many people are not taught about the darker sides of U.S. history until graduate education."
When asked to describe their overall experiences, participants were enthusiastic and expressed a desire to see more:
"It was great I learned a lot and plan on going back!"
"10/10, would go again"
"Overwhelming in a good way. Also I maybe saw 15-20 % of the museum. I need to go back!"
"Overall I had a great time I will definitely go again - I think I could spend hours there."
The Diversity Initative Happy Hour Discussions are hosted monthly. Please check out the Department's Events Calendar and join us at the next one!
Photo credit: Ennis Barbery Smith