Armchair Road Trip Day 5: African American Museum

September 4, 2020 — 1 Comment

Day 4 was a travel day: Cherry Hill, New Jersey to Arlington, Virginia. The GPS unexpectedly took us away from Rte 95 — and we discovered gorgeous farmland in Delaware and Maryland. (Who knew?) And some cool bridges across the Chesapeake.

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Day 5 was all about the African American Museum in DC. The museum is spectacular. We got there before it opened and stayed until it closed at 5:00; the guard was literally shooing us out. We spent so much time in the detailed history floors (and the soul food cafe for lunch) that we had to speed up a bit for the Black culture floors. We could have used a couple more hours. Plan accordingly if you go.

Powerful quotes are on the walls in large type throughout the museum.

As part of our trip, I hoped that Mtuseni would better understand America’s racial history. Over the years, we’d talked about the impacts of apartheid in South Africa — which he still suffers — and which I always express shock and disgust over. While he wasn’t completely unaware of issues here, I wanted Mtuseni to know the full story of our own mistakes.

This slave house is larger than Mtuseni’s shack in South Africa.

Though Mtuseni was born at the end of apartheid, his parents grew up in that segregation. He was surprised to see it so blatant in America.

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An old railway car with the separate facilities for Blacks and Whites.

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Emmett Till’s story always shocks and saddens me. The more things change…

Mtuseni was pretty much in his own world that day, soaking in everything, taking hundreds of photos, trying to grasp and reconcile the experiences and perspectives of Black South Africans and Black Americans. They are different in many ways.

The history section begins with the slave trade and goes up to Obama. You can’t come away unaffected.

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The culture floors are very cool, and a good break from the heavy history section. We saw much of it, but I would have liked more time to read every sign and look at every item.

I saw James Brown at a packed, dive club in Boston in 1988. Blew the roof off! Unforgettable. This is one of his fringe vests.

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Louis Armstrong's trumpet
Satchmo’s horn. Glad I’m old enough to remember hearing him on the radio and on TV.

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Ella Fitzgerald's dress
Ella Fitzgerald’s dress. My father loved Ella.

After the main history section is a reflection space with a rain column and quotes. The entire museum is all very well done.

Mtuseni has an interesting perspective on Mandela. He says while others were out on the streets fighting and dying for the cause, Mandela had it easy in jail. He doesn’t lionize him like Americans do — another example of the difference living in South Africa versus being on the outside.

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God, Let’s hope so.

One response to Armchair Road Trip Day 5: African American Museum

  1. 

    This is great – it need to take Taye to this museum after the monster and it’s followers are gone from DC.

    Like

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