The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Since its opening on the National Mall in 2016, this museum has drawn millions to see its world-class interactive exhibitions. The museum's founding director Lonnie G. Bunch, III described its mission by saying: "This Museum will tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture. This is America’s story and this museum is for all Americans."
The National Museum of African American History and Culture celebrated its grand opening in September 2016, with a dedication ceremony that included remarks by President Barack Obama. The building, designed by lead designer David Adjaye and lead architect Philip Freelon, is covered in ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice and its shape is inspired by the three-tiered crowns seen in West African Yoruban art. A portion of the exhibitions are underground, and Adjaye intended for visitors to begin at the basement galleries, which detail the darkness of slavery and segregation, then travel upwards to upper levels devoted to African-Americans' contributions to the arts, business, sports, science, and the military.
Highlights/exhibits to see
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is massive: according to its website, it boasts nearly 3000 objects, 12 exhibitions, 13 different interactives with 17 stations, and 183 videos spread over five floors. There's so much to see here: exhibitions include "Musical Crossroads, " devoted to African American music-makers;" Power of Place," showcasing African American communities throughout the nation; "Slavery and Freedom," which begins in 15th century Africa and Europe and concludes with the Civil War and Reconstruction; and "Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom," focusing on the era of segregation from 1876 to 1968.
Among the artifacts to see at the National Museum of African American History, find objects like Harriet Tubman's hymn book, Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, Rosa Park's dress, Louis Armstrong's trumpet, a Jim Crow-era railroad car, a slave cabin from Edisto Island in South Carolina; and a Tuskegee Airmen plane.
How to visit
Admission to the National Museum of African American History and Culture is free to the public. This museum is so popular, it's one of the few Smithsonian museums to incorporate a timed pass policy during certain times to accommodate crowds. During the peak tourist season from March to August, advanced timed passes or same-day online timed passes are required on the weekends and before 1 p.m. After 1 p.m. each weekday during peak season, walk up entry is available.
During the museum's off-peak season, which runs from September through February, timed passes are only required on the weekends. You can walk into the museum during this time starting at 10 a.m. on Monday through Friday.
Click here to get to the Smithsonian's timed entry pass portal. There, advance timed entry passes for individuals are released on the first Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m. EST, so you can score tickets for your future visit. Just click on the date on the calendar you'd like to visit and reserve up to six advanced passes. Find time passes three months in advance of your visit.
You can also use this same online system to reserve a pass for that same day: starting at 6:30 a.m., a certain number of passes per day are available, and more become available at 9:30 a.m. until they run out. You can score up to four same day passes per order. Tip: wake up early that day (as in 6:30 a.m.) to make sure you'll be able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture during your trip to the National Mall.
Find the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. The street address is 1400 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. Parking in this area is tough to come by, and public transportation is advised: head to the Metro Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, and L’Enfant Plaza Stations and then the museum is a quick walk away.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is open every day except Christmas Day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
It's possible to spend an entire day here and still not see everything, so budget your time accordingly — and fuel up during your visit at the museum's acclaimed Sweet Home Café, which serves traditional African American cuisine from across the country, divided into stations from different regions. Think pan-fried Louisiana catfish po’ boy from the Creole Coast or Lexington-style barbecue pork sandwiches from the Agricultural South.