Taking It All In: The African American Museum in Washington

My daughter and a group friends went to DC mainly to visit the White House. We were on a tour that I had planned months earlier, and while that experience was excitement enough, I truly wanted to visit this museum.

First off, walking into that space, and seeing the sheer number of Black people was emotional and heart warming. To be amongst Black folks in a space that celebrated us-fully, unapologetically, gloriously – was a vibe that was unlike any other. I did see white faces, and a few asian faces, and while I appreciated that they wanted to experience this space, I almost wished that we Black people could revel in the Museum ourselves for a time before we open it up to others. Because there are certain things that are special to ‘us’ that others just don’t ‘get’ and may not appreciate. A prime example: I witnessed each and every Black kid, child to teenager fully engrossed in the exhibits, in contrast to a group of loud, giggling Asian girls on their cell phones in the middle of a multimedia exhibit designed for reflection. Or another exhibit on comedy, a montage of jokes from TV series of various time periods. Jokes that ‘we’ would get, yet others were joining in. I don’t know if invasive is the right word, but it didn’t feel entirely right for me.

But aside from the annoyances, I loved what I could see. And I plan to come again soon, because one visit is not enough.

Tips for Visiting the African American Museum in DC:

  1. Getting Tickets #1. You can go. Tomorrow! Drop by the museum at around 9am. Go to the opposite entrance on Constitution Avenue, and you will find employees handing out free day-of tickets. These are limited. We got there following our White House tour and with a little waiting got 7 tickets. No reservations required
  2. Getting Tickets #2. Another way to get tickets is to simply go on the entrance line and when they get to you, tell them you don’t have tickets. Some people hand in their tickets for other to use, or have extras from people in their group not showing up. You won’t be denied!
  3. The Lines. The Lower Concourse Exhibit has a crazy line. Its about a 30-45 minute wait. We skipped that and went to the top floor and worked our way down. We only made it two floors, which is why we need to come back.
  4. Carry wisely. You can’t wear a backpack in the art galleries; you have to either put it in front of you or down at your side. As an alternative, you can store your stuff in a locker on the lower level.

5a. Sweet Home Cafe This is not your ordinary museum restaurant with basic fillers. The menu is divided into four areas that encompass different Black American cuisines. Each cuisine has its own line, so to save time get on one line, and have your friends get on another

5b. Be like your cousin Tee Tee an ‘em and bring your own tupperware. This is for two reasons. One, you’re gonna pay good money for the food, the food is hella good, and the portions are huge. Two, they use real silverware and don’t have disposable *anything*, so if you can’t finish the food, you have to throw it out. I polished off my shrimp and grits, but when my daughter couldn’t finish her fried chicken platter, I made room and shoveled down as much as I could. I ended up slipping the banana pudding under my coat.

Below, a taste of our visit.

2 Comments on “Taking It All In: The African American Museum in Washington

  1. I’m so thrilled to read this post! My boyfriend and I will be visiting D.C. next week and the NMAAHC will be my first stop. I was nervous about the possibility of obtaining same day passes. Your post gave me hope! Thanks for the great tips!

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