What Is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture?

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the newest and most engaging museums in Washington, D.C. It opened its doors in September 2016 and has since been a hub for celebrating the African American experience. With over 37,000 objects on display, this museum is a treasure trove of history, culture, and art.

The Building

The building itself is an architectural marvel. Designed by David Adjaye, it takes inspiration from the three-tiered crowns used in Yoruban art from West Africa.

The exterior of the building is made up of bronze-colored metal lattice panels that filter sunlight. This creates a stunning visual effect that changes throughout the day.

The Exhibits

Inside the museum, visitors are greeted with a vast collection of exhibits that trace the journey of African Americans from slavery to present-day achievements. The exhibits are organized thematically into different levels.

Concourse Level

The concourse level is where visitors start their journey. It features exhibitions on African American history and culture before slavery. Visitors can learn about African kingdoms, cultures, and languages before European colonization.

History Galleries

The history galleries are located on the lower level and focus on slavery to present-day achievements. These galleries showcase artifacts such as shackles used during the transatlantic slave trade and a guard tower from Louisiana’s Angola prison farm.

Culture Galleries

On the upper levels, visitors can explore exhibitions that celebrate African American culture through art, music, literature, sports, and fashion. These galleries include an exhibit on Chuck Berry’s Cadillac and Michael Jackson’s fedora.

The Controversy

Despite its popularity today, there was some controversy surrounding this museum when it was first proposed. Some critics felt that it would create division rather than unity. Others felt that it was unfair to single out one group’s history over others.

However, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has proven to be an important addition to the Smithsonian Institution. It celebrates the achievements of African Americans, highlights their struggles, and educates visitors about their contributions to America’s cultural heritage.


In conclusion, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Washington, D. With its stunning architecture and rich collection of exhibitions, this museum offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the African American experience in America.