History Lesson

New Smithsonian museum tells the African-American story


The national museum of African American History & Culture, a $540 million Smithsonian facility that opened to star-studded fanfare this past fall in Washington, D.C., is massive at 400,000 square feet. Its mission is big, too.

"We want to tell American history through an African-American lens," says John Franklin, a senior manager at the museum. "But this is also a place of dialogue and reconciliation. We encourage visitors to speak to each other about their experience."

The museum's somber and celebratory collection includes 37,000 items and counting, including these three must-sees. 844-750-3012; nmaahc.si.edu

Slave cabin - Built around 1850 on the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island, S.C., and inhabited until the 1980s, this once dilapidated, wooden, two-room home was restored for display in the museum.

Nat Turner's Bible - Turner, who led a slave revolt depicted in the 2016 film Birth of a Nation, is believed to have been carrying this Bible when captured.

Chuck Berry's 1973 Cadillac convertible - St. Louis' Fox Theatre refused a young Berry admission because of his race. On his 60th birthday in 1986, he performed at "the Fabulous Fox," riding across the stage in his gleaming Caddy.

Reader tip

Free, timed passes are required for entrance to the museum. Because the attraction has proved to be exceedingly popular, the advance passes available by phone and online were sold out through March at press time. But the museum gives out a limited number of same-day passes on a first-come, first-served basis every morning at 9:15.

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