Through the African American Lens

Explore Selections from the Permanent Collection

Explore Exhibition Details


NMAAHC Gallery at the National Museum of American History
14th St. & Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

The NMAAHC Gallery is located on the second floor in the East wing.

Through the
African American Lens

offers a preview of the new museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition showcases stories of trailblazers, innovators, visionaries and history makers who helped to shape this great nation.


Learn about families and individuals who achieved success under difficult circumstances.


Examine how African Americans improved their circumstances – and continue to – through formal and informal institutions that served as beacons of hope, strength, and support.


Celebrate the bountiful creative expressions – from literature, theatre, music, and visual art, and dance – that have influenced society.

The exhibition features some of the more than 33,000 artifacts that have been collected by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) since its creation in 2003. Through the African American Lens is the NMAAHC’s eighth exhibition and is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Through the African American Lens is made possible in large part by the many individuals who have generously donated artifacts, which now constitute the building blocks of the NMAAHC. Covering topics such as education, military service, popular culture, religion, sports, and visual arts, these artifacts demonstrate 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.

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes American poet, novelist, and playwright

Mobile Tour

Take our Guide by Cell tour of the exhibition. It's fun and informative whether you are in the gallery or not. To access the tour, text the word "lens" (not case sensitive) to 56512.