A family of four in sepia tone with the title "MAKE GOOD THE PROMISES" below it.

Make Good the Promises

Editor(s):  Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Paul Gardullo
Year:  2021

In the aftermath of the Civil War, millions of free and newly freed African Americans were determined to define themselves as equal citizens in a country without slavery—to own land, build secure families, and educate themselves and their children. Seeking to secure safety and justice, they successfully campaigned for civil and political rights, including the right to vote. Across an expanding America, Black politicians were elected to all levels of government, from city halls to state capitals to Washington, DC.

But those gains were short-lived. By the mid-1870s, the federal government stopped enforcing civil rights laws, allowing white supremacists to use suppression and violence to regain power in the Southern states. Black men, women, and children suffered racial terror, segregation, and discrimination that confined them to second-class citizenship, a system known as Jim Crow that endured for decades.  

More than a century has passed since the revolutionary political, social, and economic movement known as Reconstruction, yet its profound consequences reverberate in our lives today. Make Good the Promises explores five distinct yet intertwined legacies of Reconstruction—Liberation, Violence, Repair, Place, and Belief—to reveal their lasting impact on modern society. It is the story of Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Hiram Revels, Ida B. Wells, and scores of other Black men and women who reshaped a nation—and of the persistence of white supremacy and the perpetuation of the injustices of slavery continued by other means and codified in state and federal laws.

With contributions by leading scholars, and illustrated with 80 images from the exhibition, Make Good the Promises shows how Black Lives Matter, #SayHerName, antiracism, and other current movements for repair find inspiration from the lessons of Reconstruction. It touches on questions critical then and now: What is the meaning of freedom and equality? What does it mean to be an American? Powerful and eye-opening, it is a reminder that history is far from past; it lives within each of us and shapes our world and who we are.

Book cover Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World

Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World

Author(s):  Cheryl Willis Hudson
Year:  2020

This illustrated biography captures the iconic moments of fifty African American women whose heroism and bravery rewrote the American story for the better. Download a student activity guide to continue the conversation!

Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection

Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection

Editor(s):  Victoria Pope and Christine Schrum
Year:  2019

Smithsonian American Women is an inspiring and surprising celebration of U.S. women's history told through Smithsonian artifacts illustrating women's participation in science, art, music, sports, fashion, business, religion, entertainment, military, politics, activism, and more. This book offers a unique, panoramic look at women's history in the United States through the lens of ordinary objects from, by, and for extraordinary women. Featuring more than 280 artifacts from 16 Smithsonian museums and archives, and more than 135 essays from 95 Smithsonian authors, this book tells women's history as only the Smithsonian can.

We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity

We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity

Editor(s):  Kinshasha Holman Conwill
Year:  2019

We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity is a richly illustrated commemoration of African Americans' roles in World War I highlighting how the wartime experience reshaped their lives and their communities after they returned home. This stunning book presents artifacts, medals, and photographs alongside powerful essays that together highlight the efforts of African Americans during World War I. The book also presents the work of black citizens on the home front. Together their efforts laid the groundwork for later advances in the civil rights movement.

We Return Fighting reminds readers not only of the central role of African American soldiers in the war that first made their country a world power. It also reveals the way the conflict shaped African American identity and lent fuel to their longstanding efforts to demand full civil rights and to stake their place in the country's cultural and political landscape.


Vol. VII - Pictures with Purpose

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Laura Coyle, Michèle Gates Moresi, and Tanya Sheehan
Year:  2019

Pictures with Purpose, explores images from the NMAAHC’s collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century photography. The volume looks at how early photographs of and by African Americans were circulated and used, and considers their meaning, for the sitter, for the photographer, and for the owner of the photograph. Particularly significant is how African Americans used photography to shape their image within and beyond their communities.

Essays include: Foreword by Lonnie Bunch; The Social Lives of Photographs by Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi; and Vernacular Photography: A Plurality of Purposes by Tanya Sheehan.  

A light blue cover with images of food and the words "Sweet Home Cafe Cookbook" in white.

Sweet Home Café Cookbook

Author(s):  Albert G. Lukas and Jessica B. Harris, with contributions by Jerome Grant
Year:  2018

Since the 2016 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, its Sweet Home Café has become a destination in its own right. Showcasing African American contributions to American cuisine, the café offers favorite dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, adding modern flavors and contemporary twists on classics. Now both readers and home cooks can partake of the café's bounty: drawing upon traditions of family and fellowship strengthened by shared meals. Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking celebrates African American cooking through recipes served by the café itself and dishes inspired by foods from African American culture.

With 109 recipes, the sumptuous Sweet Home Café Cookbook takes readers on a deliciously unique journey. Presented here are the salads, sides, soups, snacks, sauces, main dishes, breads, and sweets that emerged in America as African, Caribbean, and European influences blended together. Featured recipes include Pea Tendril Salad, Fried Green Tomatoes, Hoppin' John, Sénégalaise Peanut Soup, Maryland Crab Cakes, Jamaican Grilled Jerk Chicken, Shrimp and Grits, Fried Chicken and Waffles, Pan Roasted Rainbow Trout, Hickory Smoked Pork Shoulder, Chow Chow, Banana Pudding, Chocolate Chess Pie, and many others. More than a collection of inviting recipes, this book illustrates the pivotal—and often overlooked—role that African Americans have played in creating and re-creating American foodways. Offering a deliciously new perspective on African American food and culinary culture, Sweet Home Café Cookbook is an absolute must-have.

Image of a man next to a post tightening the knot on his necktie.

Vol. VI - Everyday Beauty

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Robin Givhan
Year:  2018

Everyday Beauty features images that pay visual tribute to the extraordinary style and aesthetic of African American figures, famous and anonymous, by highlighting themes of self-representation, resilience, and civic engagement. The photographs depict people across generations showing how staged and candid moments can be both beautiful and precious.

Essays include: Foreword by Lonnie Bunch and Living Beauty by Robin Givhan.

Cover of Fighting for Freedom, featuring a photograph of a WWI solder with the word HERO inscribed.

Vol. V - Fighting for Freedom

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. and Gail Lumet Buckley
Year:  2017

Fighting for Freedom looks at African Americans in uniform, from the Civil War to the War in Iraq. This selection of photographs illustrates stories of patriotism, courage, and dignity, and explores the lives and challenges of African Americans in the United States military.

Essays include: Foreword by Lonnie Bunch; Pride in Service by Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr, USMC Retired; and Heroes and Trailblazers by Gail Lumet Buckley.

Cover of NMAAHC Guidebook, featuring a daytime shot of the building from the Northwest corner.

Official Guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Amercan History and Culture

Author(s):  Kathleen M. Kendrick
Year:  2017

This fully illustrated guide to the Smithsonian's newest museum takes visitors on a journey through the richness and diversity of African American culture and the history of a people whose struggles, aspirations, and achievements have shaped the nation. Opened in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture welcomes all visitors who seek to understand, remember, and celebrate this history. The guidebook provides a comprehensive tour of the museum, including its magnificent building and grounds and eleven permanent exhibition galleries dedicated to themes of history, community, and culture. Highlights from the museum's collection of artifacts and works of art are presented in full-color photographs, accompanied by evocative stories and voices that illuminate the American experience through the African American lens.

From No Return: The 221-Year Journey of the Slave Ship São José

Author(s):  Lonnie Bunch, Paul Gardullo, Stephen C. Lubkemann, Jaco Jacqes Boshoff
Year:  2016

A book both factual and personal, From No Return: The 221-Year Journey of the Slave Ship São José recounts a portion of African American history as it is being made. Here is the story of the recovery in 2014 of artifacts from the São José, the first known slave ship to be recovered that sank with its human cargo aboard. Finding such a singular lens through which to view the unfathomable scope of the Middle Passage had become a quest for National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) founding director Lonnie Bunch. From No Return chronicles the efforts of NMAAHC and its collaborators to locate the ship and unearth its ungodly objects, including some of the 1,130 iron bars the São José crew used to balance the weight of the ship’s human cargo. The book contains full-page images of these artifacts along with reproductions of the ship’s manifest, the captain’s deposition after the ship capsized in December 1794 off the coast of South Africa, and other archival documents.

Bunch is one of four authors. The others are NMAAHC curator Paul Gardullo and the co-founders of the Slave Wrecks Project, Stephen C. Lubkemann and Jaco Jacqes Boshoff, who repeatedly dived the site. The “journey” that’s referenced in the book’s subtitle is threefold: the recovery of the artifacts; the symbolic return in 2015, by Bunch and the other authors, of those who had perished to their Mozambique homeland; and the personal journeys of the authors themselves as they unspooled this story from the turbulent waters off Cape Town. Each of them bore witness to a moment of discovery that will soon be part of history.

Hardcover; 124 pp., 10.25" x 9.25"; illustrated.

Dream a World Anew: The African American Experience and the Shaping of America

Dream a World Anew

Editor(s):  Kinshasha Holman Conwill
Year:  2016

This stunning gift book accompanies the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It combines informative narratives from leading scholars, curators, and authors with objects from the museum's collection to present a thorough exploration of African American history and culture. Abundant photographs, sidebars, quotations, poems, and profiles of trailblazers and visionaries round out this rich and engrossing narrative. Dream a World Anew offers the opportunity to explore and revel in African American history and culture, as well as the chance to see how central African American history is for all Americans.

Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Begin with the Past

Author(s):  Mabel O. Wilson
Year:  2016

This book explores how this unparalleled museum found its place in the nation’s collective memory and on its public commons. Mabel O. Wilson explores how the "four pillars" of the museum's mission shaped its powerful structure, and she teases out the rich cultural symbols and homages layered into the design of the building and its surrounding landscape. This is an important inside look at the making of a monument.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture: A Souvenir Book

Author(s):  National Museum of African American History and Culture
Year:  2016

This beautifully illustrated keepsake showcases the extraordinary treasures of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s collections. Together the objects illustrate the rich complexity of the African American experience. Numerous objects are accompanied by captions explaining their significance and role in our nation’s history. This book, like the museum it represents, uses artifacts of African American history and culture as a lens into what it means to be an American.

Vol. IV - Picturing Children

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Marian Wright Edelman and Ivory A. Toldson
Year:  2016

Picturing Children features a diverse selection of photographs, including spontaneous records of intimate family moments, playtime, communal activities, and portraits. The images speak not only to the past, but also to our evolving concepts of childhood and the engagement of youth in our society.

Essays include: Foreword by Lonnie Bunch; Our Turn by Marian Wright Edelman; and Picture This by Ivory A. Toldson.

Cover, New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City

New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City

Year:  2015

For more than a century, the signature sound of New Orleans has been the brass band — at once a source of celebration, collective expression, and community pride. On February 10, 2015, Smithsonian Folkways released the newly-recorded collection New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City, bringing together for the first time in one recording three musical generations that represent three dominant styles of brass bands. Featured are the classic sound of the Liberty Brass Band, the modern-yet-traditional Treme Brass Band, and the funk, rap, and “bounce” influenced Hot 8 Brass Band.

Cover, Songs My Mother Taught Me

Songs My Mother Taught Me

Author(s):  Fannie Lou Hamer
Year:  2015

A re-release of limited-edition 1963 field recordings, breathes new life into Fannie Lou Hamer’s inspiring legacy and her uncompromising call for a righteous world.

Vol. III - African American Women

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Natasha Trethewey
Year:  2015

African American Women celebrates portraits and candid photographs of African American women including celebrities, activists, and historic figures who deserve to be better known. This issue portrays the dignity, joy, heartbreak, resilience, commitment, and sacrifice of women of all ages and backgrounds. 

Essays Include: Foreword, by Lonnie Bunch; Picturing Grace, by Kinshasha Holman Conwill; and Ars Poetica, by Natasha Trethewey

Vol. II - Civil Rights and the Promise of Equality

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  John Lewis and Bryan Stevenson
Year:  2015

Civil Rights and the Promise of Equality features iconic, as well as moving but less well-known, photographs of pivotal Civil Rights events with work by Spider Martin, Charles Moore, and Ernest Withers among other noteworthy and newly discovered photographers. 

Essays include: Foreword, by Lonnie Bunch; Portrait of a Revolution, by Congressman John Lewis; and Reflections for a New Generation, by Bryan Stevenson.

Vol. I - Through the African American Lens

Editor(s):  Laura Coyle and Michèle Gates Moresi
Author(s):  Rhea L. Combs and Deborah Willis
Year:  2015

Through the African American Lens provides an overview of the photography collection supporting the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts and encompasses the Museum’s overarching thematic selections – History, Community, and Culture.

Essays include: Foreword by Lonnie Bunch; Self-Representation and Hope: The Power of the Picture by Rhea L. Combs; and America’s Lens, by Deborah Willis.

A Life of Song

Author(s):  Ella Jenkins
Year:  2011

In A Life of Song, Ella Jenkins, “The First Lady of Children’s Music,” offers stories and songs that speak to her youthful years as an African American child in a multi-cultural world. Her career of more than a half century earned her the first Lifetime Achievement Grammy award for a children’s music artist, and her more than thirty recordings teach us to learn from one another while taking pride in our own heritage. This African American Legacy recording of Ella singing with children from the Cool Classics after-school program spotlights her own heritage while showing her delight for the traditions of others. 36 minutes, lyrics, photos, 28-page booklet.

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: The Apollo Theater and American Entertainment

Editor(s):  Richard Carlin, Kinshasha Holman Conwill
Year:  2010

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment celebrates the seventy-five year history of the Apollo Theater, Harlem's landmark performing arts space and the iconic showplace for the best in jazz, blues, dance, comedy, gospel, R & B, hip-hop, and more since it opened its doors in 1934. This beautifully illustrated book is the companion volume to an exhibition of the same name, organized by the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the Apollo Theater Foundation. It offers a sweeping panorama of American cultural achievement from the Harlem Renaissance to the present through the compelling story of a single institution.

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing brings together a diverse group of twenty-four writers to discuss the theater's history and its intersection with larger social and political issues within Harlem and the nation. Featuring more than 300 photographs, this volume brings to life the groundbreaking entertainers in music, dance, and comedy—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, James Brown, Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, Honi Coles, and Savion Glover, to name a few—who made the Apollo the icon that it is today. The Apollo Theater has been the setting for soaring achievement and creativity in the face of enormous challenges. In telling this truly American story, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing is a celebration of the lasting contributions of African Americans to the nation's cultural life.

Cover, For All the World to See

For All the World to See

Author(s):  Maurice Berger
Year:  2010

In 1955, shortly after Emmett Till was murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi, his grieving mother distributed to the press a gruesome photograph of his mutilated corpse. Asked why she would do this, she explained that by witnessing with their own eyes the brutality of segregation and racism, Americans would be more likely to support the cause of racial justice. “Let the world see what I’ve seen,” was her reply. The publication of the photograph inspired a generation of activists to join the civil rights movement.

Despite this extraordinary episode, the story of visual culture’s role in the modern civil rights movement is rarely included in its history. This is the first comprehensive examination of the ways images mattered in the struggle, and it investigates a broad range of media including photography, television, film, magazines, newspapers, and advertising.

These images were ever present and diverse: the startling footage of southern white aggression and black suffering that appeared night after night on television news programs; the photographs of black achievers and martyrs in Negro periodicals; the humble snapshot, no less powerful in its ability to edify and motivate. In each case, the war against racism was waged through pictures—millions of points of light, millions of potent weapons that forever changed a nation. Through vivid storytelling and incisive analysis, this powerful book allows us to see and understand the crucial role that visual culture played in forever changing a nation.

Rappahannock Blues

Author(s):  John Jackson
Year:  2010

Raised in a large, musical farm family in Rappahannock County, Virginia, John Jackson (1924-2002) was the most important black Appalachian musician to come to broad public attention during the mid-1960s. Having learned guitar and his wide-ranging stock of songs as a youth from family and 78-rpm recordings, he enthralled major audiences during more than three decades with his vintage style and repertoire. Culled from hundreds of live concert recordings in the Smithsonian Folkways archives, the twenty tracks of Rappahannock Blues highlight John Jackson the way he most wanted to be remembered—as a bluesman

IndiVisible: African-Native Lives in the Americas

Editor(s):  Gabrielle Tayac
Year:  2009

IndiVisible: African-Native Lives in the Americas, is a companion book to the exhibition of the same name which was produced in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Services. Throughout American history, people of combined African and Native American descent have often struggled for acceptance, not only from dominant cultures but also from their own communities. In this collection of twenty-seven groundbreaking essays, authors from across the Americas explore the complex personal histories and contemporary lives of people with a dual heritage that has rarely received attention as part of the multicultural landscape. Illustrated with seventy-five paintings, photographs, and drawings, the book brings to light an epic but little-known part of American history that speaks to present-day struggles for racial identity and understanding.

The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing The Promise

Editor(s):  National Museum of African American History and Culture
Year:  2009

Nearly a century's worth of Scurlock photographs combine to form a searing portrait of black Washington in all its guises—its challenges and its victories, its dignity and its determination. Beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing into the 1990s, Addison Scurlock, followed by his sons, Robert and George, used their cameras to document and celebrate a community unique in the world, and a stronghold in the history and culture of the nation's capital.

Through photographs of formal weddings, elegant cotillions, ballet studios, and quiet family life, the Scurlocks revealed a world in which the black middle class refused to be defined or held captive by discrimination. From its home on the vibrant U Street corridor, the Scurlock Studio gave us indelible images of leaders and luminaries, of high society and working class, of Washingtonians at work and at play. In photograph after photograph, the Scurlocks captured an optimism and resiliency seldom seen in mainstream depictions of segregated society.

Luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Ralph Bunche, Mary McLeod Bethune, Alain Locke, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lois Mailou Jones testify to the intellectual and cultural vibrancy that was unique to Washington and an inspiration to the nation. Photographs of a Peoples Drugstore protest and Marian Anderson's Easter morning concert at the Lincoln Memorial remind us that the struggle for equality in black Washington began long before the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Offering a rich lens into our past, The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington is a powerful trigger of personal and historical memory.

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits

Editor(s):  Deborah Willis
Year:  2007

This stunning collection of photographic portraits traces US history through the lives of well-known abolitionists, artists, scientists, writers, statesman, entertainers, and sports figures. Drawing on the photographic collections of the National Portrait Gallery, author Deborah Willis explores how these images—many by famous photographers—reveal the nation's history through an African American lens and challenge us all to uphold America's highest ideals and promises. Let Your Motto Be Resistance is the inaugural publication of the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture.