Black history: have you sought this out in your travels, come across it stories in passing, or passed it by unknowingly? History is about story, after all. Individual story. However big the sweep of history or large the museum history comes down to that: individual stories set in context
Set in context. When well done, that helps us learn from and about each other. Here are places you can explore both online and in person to continue learning contexts and stories of Black history.
Though The National Museum of African American Arts and Culture, in Washington, DC is closed to the public at this writing, there are at least three ways to explore and learn from the museum’s extensive and thoughtfully presented collections. There is the NMAAHC main website, where you may tour and learn about the galleries and read about how the museum came to be. There is the recently opened portal Talking About Race , which, as the museum describes it “provides digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources tailored for educators, parents and caregivers—and individuals committed to racial equality.” Many of these include material drawn from Black history.
If good food and good stories intrigue you, you will also want explore the Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook from the museum’s chefs and food historians. It offers a range of great recipes and photographs as well as stories of Black history.
The National Museum of African American Music is new, and has not opened to the public as yet. It is meant to open in September, in downtown Nashville. Many are the stories it has to tell. You can explore resources available now along with what is to come at the website.
Black history from other perspectives is found in the International Slavery Museum, part of the National Museums Liverpool, in Liverpool, England. Liverpool played a part in the slave trade, and in the centuries and events of Black history that followed. Exhibits look at what may be learned from the history of slavery, and ask questions about present day slavery as well. Explore these online through videos and a virtual tour.
Plantations are often bring to mind the lives of people who owned them. That is what many planation tours focus on, often with little to no consideration of the enslaved people who lived and worked there. Whitney Plantation in Saint John the Baptist Parish near Wallace, Louisiana, is different. Owner John Cummings and scholar Dr. Ibrahima Seck have made the restoration of a plantation which tells of the lives of those enslaved there.
There is quite bit to explore on the planation’s website, also including educational resources.
A photograph in a school textbook drew John F. Baker Junior to explore the story of another plantation, Wessyngton in Robertson County, Tennessee . What he found of his own enslaved ancestors and other enslaved people who lived there led to a book and an award winning documentary called Wessyngton Plantation:A Family’s Road To Freedom from Nashville Public Television. Here is a short interview with Baker
Some enslaved folk made the dangerous journey to freedom through what was known as the Underground Railroad. This comprised secret safe houses and other places where people would hide them and help them on their way. In Indiana, Sheila visited the home of one couple who were part of the Underground Railroad. It is now a museum, and brings another aspect of Black history to life.
There are many more places connected with stories of Black history. They range from street names in small towns, to others, somewhat forgotten in plain sight. The White House in Washington DC was built by enslaved people, free people of color, and immigrants, for example.
There is much more to explore of Black history in other ways, too, through books, through music, and through our own archives. We will offer you more ways to do that to come.
Music is an excellent way to learn about, explore, and connect over history and culture. Rhiannon Giddens is an artist who brings Black history to life in her work. Give a listen as through three songs and a bit of conversation, she weaves the threads of Black history together. I’d add, if ever you have the chance to see Giddens in person, do so. Check out her recording Freedom Highway,. too.
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