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Due to its popularity, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), is one of the hardest to get into! It first opened it’s doors to huge crowds in September of 2016 and has hosted over 4.5 million visitors since that time.
Why is the NMAAHC so popular? Because it lays out in dramatic, realistic and colorful form the 400-year history of the African American experience in the United States, from the sordid days of slavery, through the Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, the civil rights era, right up to the present time, highlighting the incredible contributions made by African Americans to the tapestry of the American experience in peace, in war, in struggle, in literature, education, science, in arts and music and dance and athletics.
And all of this makes great subjects for photography. The museum pulls no punches. You will photograph drawings of the hold of a slave ship, seeing hundreds of slaves manacled to the hull, laid end to end like sardines in a can, plus drawings of a slave block in Charleston, SC, where slave families were ripped apart and sold to separate owners. You will find a fully reconstructed slave cabin and the manacles and chains used to herd slaves to their destinations.
There is also a Tuskegee Airmen airplane from World War II hanging from the ceiling, a Pullman railroad car, and special exhibits honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and most recently, the late Aretha Franklin. There are cars, dresses, guitars, suits, musical instruments, Chuck Berry’s HUGE red Cadillac, and slave rebellion leader Nat Turner’s Bible.
The architecture of the building itself is quite unique. It was designed by architect David Adjaye in the form of a “corona” a multi-tiered headdress worn in Ghana, and it is a great subject for architectural photography by day and by night.
- What to Bring
- Extra charged battery
- Extra memory card
- Weather appropriate clothing
- Where to Meet
Meet at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, 1400 Constitution Ave NW, Museum entrance on the Mall side.
- Your Instructor
E. David Luria is founder and director of the Washington Photo Safari, which has trained 36,000 amateur photographers – an average of 5 people every day, 365 days a year, since it was founded in 1999. Trained in Paris by a protégé of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mr. Luria is a member of the American Society of Media Photographers and the Society of Photographic Educators and has had his images of DC appear in over 100 publications, calendars, and postcards and on 30 magazine covers.