Cultural Expression thumbnail
Featured Exhibition

Cultural Expressions

Culture shapes lives. It’s in the food people eat, the languages they speak, the art they create, and many other ways they express themselves. These traditions reflect the history and creative spirit of African American and other cultures of the African diaspora.

Explore More about Cultural Expressions
Current Special


Afrofuturism expresses notions of Black identity, agency and freedom through art, creative works and activism that envision liberated futures for Black life.
Read Moreabout Afrofuturism
Current Special

Explore More!

Explore More! is an interactive, multifaceted educational space dedicated to helping visitors connect and engage with African American history and culture in ways that expand perspectives, spark curiosity and creativity, and increase knowledge.
Read Moreabout Explore More!
Current Special

In Slavery's Wake

Opening December 2024, "In Slavery’s Wake" is a project and international exhibition on the history and afterlives of slavery.
Read Moreabout In Slavery's Wake
Current Special


Visual art has long provided its own protest, commentary, escape and perspective for African Americans. The Black painters, sculptors, photographers and textile artists featured exemplify the tradition of exhibiting resilience in times of conflict, as well as the ritual of creation, and the defiant pleasure of healing.
Read Moreabout Reckoning
Current Special

Spirit in the Dark

Sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, at times in the shadows—but always somewhere in the frame—religion is essential to the story of Black America.
Read Moreabout Spirit in the Dark



Slavery and Freedom

Five hundred years ago, the emergence of the Transatlantic Slave Trade transformed Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The United States was created in this context, forged by slavery as well as a radical new concept, freedom.
Read Moreabout Slavery and Freedom

A Century in the Making

The journey to open this museum took many attempts and numerous steps to realize. It involved the activism of private citizens and organizations, passage of federal legislation, construction of an inspiring new building, and collecting thousands of artifacts.
Read Moreabout A Century in the Making




Sports matter far beyond the playing fields. Though historically denied opportunities to compete at the highest levels, African American athletes have recorded impressive achievements and also utilized sports to fight for greater rights and freedoms.
Read Moreabout Sports

Double Victory

From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, African Americans have served in the United States military. In defending their country, they hoped to earn freedom and citizenship and contribute to a changed America where racial equality was possible.
Read Moreabout Double Victory



Taking the Stage

Through their achievements on the stage and screen, African Americans have expressed creative visions, enriched American culture, and inspired audiences around the world. They have also used the power of performance to fuel social change.
Read Moreabout Taking the Stage

Musical Crossroads

African American musical creativity has generated and enriched a vast array of musical styles, from folk and blues, to classical and spiritual, to jazz and hip-hop. These musical creations are a soundtrack to stories of African American history, culture, and community.
Read Moreabout Musical Crossroads



Chez Baldwin

James Baldwin’s house in the South of France serves as a powerful lens to explore his life and works. From 1971 to 1987, his home in St. Paul de Vence was his permanent, vibrant abode and an important social center for artists and intellectuals from Europe, Africa, America, and around the world.
Read Moreabout Chez Baldwin

Past Special Exhibitions

Past Special

City of Hope

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched The Poor People's Campaign — a national, multiethnic, multicultural movement to demand equal access to economic opportunities and security for all people.
Read Moreabout City of Hope
Past Special

Everyday Beauty

On view from September 24, 2016 – February 4, 2019, "Everyday Beauty: Photographs and Films from the Permanent Collection" demonstrated how people have used media arts to document African Americans’ everyday lives, as well as challenge negative perceptions, demonstrate the strength of the human spirit, and promote social reform.
Read Moreabout Everyday Beauty
Past Special

Make Good the Promises

Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and Its Legacies focuses on the story of Reconstruction—the period following the Civil War—through an African American lens.
Read Moreabout Make Good the Promises
Past Special

Millie Christine

Millie Christine: The Life and Legal Battles of the Carolina Twins explores the lives of enslaved conjoined twins who were considered physical oddities and exhibited as circus and side show attractions throughout the United States and Europe beginning in the pre-Civil War era. The exhibit examines the complexities of freedom, profit and family connection for the McCoy twins through the Freedmen’s Bureau and its records.
Read Moreabout Millie Christine
Past Special

More Than A Picture

Photographs are more than just pictures. They record memories and document moments of pride, joy, and celebration, and sometimes conflict and confrontation. Every photograph has a deeper story that has shaped the histories of individuals, cultures, and communities.
Read Moreabout More Than A Picture
Past Special

Now Showing

In November 2019, the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts (CAAMA) opened Now Showing: Posters from African American Movies, a temporary exhibition exploring the art of movie posters, specifically examining films by black filmmakers or works featuring black performers. The exhibition is on view November 22, 2019 – December 5, 2021.
Read Moreabout Now Showing
Past Special

Pauli Murray's Proud Shoes

Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes: A Classic in African American Genealogy explores the family history of Pauli Murray, a pioneering lawyer, priest and writer. Her book, Proud Shoes: An African American Family, showcases the racial and social dynamics between the union of a free black family from the north and a mixed-race family of the south.
Read Moreabout Pauli Murray's Proud Shoes
Past Special


In honor of the publication of The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap and African American Music Appreciation Month in June, the museum decided to remix and re-release the show Represent: Hip-Hop Photography. Don’t miss your second chance to discover distinct visual pairings that will change the way you think about the roots of the art form.
Read Moreabout Represent
Past Special

Through the African American Lens

On view from May 2015-October 2017, Through the African American Lens demonstrated how the African American story is quintessentially an American one of determination, faith, perseverance, pride, and resilience. The exhibition’s three sections—history, culture, and community—reflect the thematic strands of the new museum.
Read Moreabout Through the African American Lens
Past Special

Visual Art and the American Experience

The visual arts play a vital role in illuminating the American experience through an African American lens. Paintings, sculptures, and works on paper reveal how artists viewed and interpreted their world and also contribute to our understanding of an era.
Read Moreabout Visual Art and the American Experience
Share this page