Cultural Expressions is a circular, experiential, introductory space to African American and African diaspora culture.

A 360 degree look at Cultural Expressions, an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Courtesy of Cortina Media

About the Exhibition

Inside of the Cultural Expressions Exhibit


The exhibition introduces visitors to the broad concept of African American and African diaspora culture and five ways through which that culture is expressed.
about Introduction
Inside of the Cultural Expressions Exhibit


The outer ring focuses on African American culture, while the inner ring displays examples of culture from other parts of the African Diaspora.
about Rings
Inside of the Cultural Expressions Exhibit

Cultural Commons

Cultural Commons, is composed of large, moving, iconic images that reinforce and amplify the exhibitions themes, stories, and people profiled on the entire 4th floor, which includes three other culture exhibitions.
about Cultural Commons
Inside of the Cultural Expressions Exhibit

Five Forms of Expression

The five forms of expression presented are Style: Image and Identity; Foodways: Culture and Cuisine; Artistry: Craftsmanship and Creativity; Language: The Power of the Word; and Movement: Gesture and Social Dance.
about Five Forms of Expression

Journey Through the Exhibition

Cultural Expressions Storylines

A Closer Look

Supervisory Museum Curator of the African Diaspora, Joanne T. Hyppolite, Ph.D., gives a deeper look behind the exhibit, Cultural Expressions.

Exhibition Luminaries

Chef Leah Chase

Leah Chase has brought New Orleans Creole cooking to international attention. She was the chief chef at Dooky Chase’s, a New Orleans landmark. Civil rights organizers met at the restaurant in the 1950s to plan their course of action.

(Photo credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
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Angela Davis

Activist and scholar Angela Davis and her signature Afro became a national symbol for black freedom struggles during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

(Photo credit: Michelle VIGNES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
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Tom Joyner

“The Hardest Working Man in Radio,” Tom Joyner commuted from a morning show in Dallas, Texas, to an evening show in Chicago for eight years. Today, his nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show is one of radio’s most popular programs. Joyner uses his radio stature to support education, public health and financial fitness.

(Photo credit: Steve Grayson/WireImage)
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Mrs. Jarena Lee

In 1819 Jarena Lee became the first woman authorized to preach under Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Male congregants and ministers questioned her ability. A traveling preacher throughout the Northeast, Lee encouraged enslaved and free blacks and whites to overcome obstacles through the Word of God.

(Photo credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images)
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Chef Edna Lewis

Born on her grandfather’s farm, Edna Lewis grew up cooking without modern conveniences. Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking became a classic, with chapters on fresh local foods predating the “farm-to-table” movement.

(Photo credit: Martha Cooper/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
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Bob Marley

Musician Bob Marley was the Rastafari movement’s most famous ambassador. Through reggae music, he spread its message and lifestyle around the world and helped make dreadlocks a fashion trend in the 1970s. Until then, dreadlocked Jamaicans were often harassed for their naturalist beliefs, respect for African identity, and struggles against the status quo.

(Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
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“Magnificent” Montague

During the 1960s most of black Los Angeles tuned in to KGFJ to hear the latest dance music and catch Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague proclaim, “burn, baby, burn.” Montague (b. 1928) often wove black history lessons into his show. He changed his signature catchphrase to “learn, baby, learn” after the 1965 Watts uprising.

(Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
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Phillip Simmons

When Philip Simmons began his career, blacksmiths in Charleston, South Carolina, made practical objects, like horseshoes and wagon wheels. Over 65-years, Simmons mastered the craft of functional and decorative ironwork. Examples of his work, including iron gates, can be seen throughout South Carolina’s Lowcountry and contribute significantly to the region’s sense of place.

(Photo credit: Claire Y. Greene/ Philip Simmons Foundation)
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Russell Simmons

Hip-Hop is more than music. Art, poetry, dance, and especially fashion bear its imprint. Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons was an early executive-artist who connected Hip-Hop to clothing, launching Phat Farm out of a SoHo storefront in 1992. In linking music to fashion, Simmons showed others how to use financial and media power to buy their way into the fashion industry.

(Photo credit: James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Chef Pierre Thiam

When immigrants settle in the United States, their recipes become part of America—their foodways join with others to create new foods. Chef Pierre Thiam wants Senegalese food to join the mix. Born in Dakar, Thiam moved to New York in the 1980s, working in restaurant kitchens before opening a catering business. Thiam lectures in both countries. He has organized tours for American food professionals in Dakar and festivals such as AfroEats.

(Photo credit: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
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Minister Rev. Howard Thurman

Rev. Howard Thurman wrote more than 20 books, founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, and served as a university dean. Thurman met Mahatma Gandhi in 1935. Deeply affected by Gandhi’s philosophy, he later counseled civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and James Farmer Jr. Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited is a founding text for the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement.

(Photo credit: Dick Darrell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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Lorenzo Dow Turner

A professor at Roosevelt College in Chicago, Lorenzo Dow Turner pioneered the study of African language retentions. He took these field notes in 1930. His Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect connects West African groups with descendants in the Americas. De Nyew Testament, in Gullah-Geechee, interprets the New Testament of the Bible.

(Photo credit: Marvin Joseph /The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Saul Williams

Saul Williams emerged on the slam poetry scene in the 1990s. A grand slam champion at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Williams led the New York team in the 1996 National Poetry Slam competition. Williams has several books of poetry to his credit and appeared in the movie Slam, the documentary SlamNation and other films.

(Photo credit: Karl Walter/Getty Images)
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Wendy Williams

Prior to her television talk show, Wendy Williams spent 23 years in radio in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. The Wendy Williams Experience on New York’s WBLS earned her 12 million listeners. Williams’s frank personality–and the hard questions she asked her celebrity guests–kept listeners entertained.

(Photo credit: Jennifer Graylock/WireImage)
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Exhibition Objects

Dress designed by Ann Lowe, 1958

View Object about Dress designed by Ann Lowe, 1958

Wrought iron gate created by Philip Simmons, 1970s

View Object about Wrought iron gate created by Philip Simmons, 1970s

Boat seat with spider web design from Ecuador, early 20th century

View Object about Boat seat with spider web design from Ecuador, early 20th century

“Freedom Quilt” created by Jessie Bell Williams Telfair, ca. 1975

View Object about “Freedom Quilt” created by Jessie Bell Williams Telfair, ca. 1975

Chef jacket worn by Leah Chase, ca. 2012

View Object about Chef jacket worn by Leah Chase, ca. 2012

“De Nyew Testament,” in Gullah, Sea Island Creole, 2005

View Object about “De Nyew Testament,” in Gullah, Sea Island Creole, 2005
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