Mary Elliott, curator of American slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, offers a look at a cross-section of items featured in the museum store that illuminate the American story through the African American lens. The curated gift selections honor African American history and culture. Purchases at the store support the museum’s artistic, community and education programs.

"The following items are my selections. I chose each one based on personal connection and reflection. There is something for everyone; gifts for friends and loved ones, as well as for a little self-indulgence."



Clementine Hunter Collection
Clementine Hunter Collection two

Clementine Hunter Collection
Holiday ornaments, dinnerware, book and more

My colleagues have done a fabulous job of building up the NMAAHC visual art collection. I love that a cross-section of artists are showcased in the collection, including two self-taught artists, Clementine Hunter and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Both artists represent their own unique styles, yet their collective work embodies the contributions of self-trained artists to the fine art world.

I remember visiting Melrose Plantation in Louisiana and seeing the iconic mural painted by folk artist Clementine Hunter. The powerful art, housed in the “African House” depicts scenes from her life and her dreams.

I also remember growing up in the 1980s and the influence of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat’s art incorporates his Haitian and Puerto Rican lineage, and his connection to the Black community. It also represents the fight against racism and breaking down power structures.

Basquiat Collection
Books, pouches, apparel, laptop accessories and more

Basquiat Collection tees
Basquiat Collection books
Basquiat Collection items


Bottle tree

The Bottle Tree Sculpture
Available in various sizes

Bottle trees, with connection to Kongo people of Central Africa, have traditionally been placed throughout the South.

I love this sculpted version of a bottle tree not only for its beauty and the history it embodies, but also because it reminds me of trips to Edisto Island, S.C.

The curatorial team visited Edisto several times as we collected the Point of Pines slave cabin and met with community members.

I remember seeing a spirit tree as we drove down S.C. Highway 174. It served as a marker, and a reminder of the people, traditions, cultural retentions and community.

Home and Collectibles

freres branchiaux candles

Frères Branchiaux
Candles and room sprays

I love this curated collection of candles and room sprays from an African American family-owned fragrance company, founded and owned by three brothers from Washington, D.C.

When I encountered the display of candles and room sprays, I was instantly drawn in by the fragrant aromas. I had to include these on my holiday list, as it reminds me of the street markets in communities across the country.

I remember buying body oils, incense, candles and more from street vendors and small Black-owned businesses.

I was thrilled to see that these young brothers aligned together to carry on the community tradition of entrepreneurship and creating and maintaining a family business.


Spice Suite
Spices, jams, sauces and more

Spice Suite selection

I love to cook and I love mixing spices. The Spice Suite’s unique spice mixes, food items and cookware stir my culinary creativity. I love Spice Suite founder Angel Gregorio’s approach of sourcing global spices to create international, regional and local blends. Her trademarked phrase Food is Fashion©, is on point.

Her customers are encouraged to design their own dishes that meet their tastes. Gregorio’s personal journey to entrepreneurship is one for the history books. Her brilliant business model reminds me of the National Negro Business League led by Booker T. Washington. She not only promotes Black businesses, she uses her space as an incubator to train and grow the next group of successful entrepreneurs.

Sweet Home Café Cook Book

Gift Guide Book Selection two Sweet Home Cafe


Holiday Gift Guide Sheila K. Bridges two

Sheila K. Bridges Interior Designs
Candles, dinnerware, totes, silk hair wraps, canvas zip pouches and more
$25 – and up

The women in my family always keep a well-decorated home, with heirloom pieces passed down generation to generation. My mother has my great grandmother’s tea service and cherished teacups. I have my aunt’s wedding silver.

I love the tradition of passing down the family touchstones. What better way to continue that practice, than sharing the artistry and classical style of interior designer Sheila Bridges. I remember when she first came on the scene, decades ago.

A brilliant African American interior designer whose creativity had universal appeal. It is a pleasure to see her designs embody African American culture in such a whimsical, yet practical way. I will gladly enjoy and pass on these heirloom pieces.

Historic Collectibles

Foundational Documents
Establishing the Nation


Foundational Documents Establishing the Nation

I would be remiss if I did not include on my holiday list copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Emancipation Proclamation. All three are important documents to consider during this period leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the nation.

As a trained attorney and the museum’s curator of American Slavery, I place great importance on not just knowing about the history, but actually engaging with original documents. It is imperative that in addition to learning about the history of the foundational documents, everyone should read and revisit the text to remind us about ideals of freedom, justice, equality and democracy.

As we reflect on the words embodied in the text, it is important to reflect on the aspirational nation, where we fell short, and how we continue to work toward being a more perfect Union. My wish is that we eventually include the Reconstruction Amendments. An informed public is an empowered public.



Bethune and Black Power Fist

Bethune and Black Power Fist Desk Sculptures

I remember when I graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. I was gifted a beautiful bronze desktop sculpture of “Blind Justice,” which was inspired by the Egyptian goddess Ma’at who stood for truth, justice, balance and order.

It is an everyday reminder of my journey and my values.

I love that I can expand my collection of small but meaningful sculptures, mini monuments that serve as a reminder to me and a display to the world of what I deem important.

The Black Power fist represents a universal symbol of unity and the fight against oppression. The image of Mary McLeod Bethune represents the importance of education, equality and civil rights.  

Clothing and Accessories

Chocolate City tee

Chocolate City
Totes, shirts, jogger pants and hoodies

This gives new meaning to the word “hoodie,” as I love how my hometown is represented on this cozy hoodie for everyone to enjoy.

On the front is bold recognition of the community many have come to know and love as “Chocolate City.”

The city so beloved for its African American population, influence, power, culture, intellect and overall vibe, that Parliament Funkadelic made a song about it.

On the back, is a beautiful copper/sepia image of the beloved NMAAHC building. Designer Allen Aderotoye’s creation resonates with many as there are "chocolate cities" across the nation.

A beautiful way to rep importance of historically Black communities.


Juneteenth tee

Juneteenth Collection
Shirts, hats, hoodies, mugs, stickers and more

On June 19, 1865, the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, and enforced freedom granted to enslaved people in the rebelling states two and a half years earlier. Freedom granted in the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 was enforced by the Union military as it made its way across the rebelling states in the South during the Civil War. Union soldiers entered Texas, the rebelling state farthest west and south, two months after the end of the Civil War.

The occasion marks a significant moment on the long road to freedom, leading to the passage of the 13th Amendment and ultimate end to slavery throughout the nation.

For generations, African Americans commemorate and celebrate freedom with Emancipation Day parades across the country. However, the historic moment in Galveston in 1865, is known as Juneteenth and recognized locally, nationally and even internationally. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday.


Radical Dreams pins

Radical Dreams Collection

 Know thy self and let the world know as well. Say it loud  . . . The Radical Dreams pendant collection speaks for itself.

I love the pendants, pins and more that reflect positive messages and incorporate iconic symbols and figures in history.

From “Black Boy Joy” to “Keep Going” to “World Changer” and the Black Power fist embossed with the word “Free,” all send messages of joy, encouragement and self-worth.

Books and Education

Knowledge Card series

The Library of Congress Knowledge Cards Series

The Library of Congress Knowledge Cards are on point for teaching and remembering important history. They bring back memories of when my father used to post 8 1/2” x 11” cards around the house during National Negro History Week. He made me and my four siblings memorize the bios of important historic African American figures in American history including Mary McLeod Bethune, Robert Smalls, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Phillis Wheatley and more. The sets of cards are a brief and straightforward way of learning about history and prompting curiosity to find out more.


Gift Guide Book Selection four

Book Selection
Prices vary

I love that museum guests consistently ask what books they should read to find out more about the content in the museum. It provides an opportunity to further promote the rock star scholars whose expertise informs our work. It also allows guests an opportunity to learn more about personal and community stories, through the voices of the people whose stories we share. We have a cross-section of books that appeal to young and old alike.

Kid-Friendly Books
Prices vary

Gift Guide Book Selection
Gift Guide Book Selection three

Visit our museum store to shop for these holiday gift guide favorites and more. Click the link to plan your visit.

Shop the Best Designs of Our Limited-Edition Collections

Our museum is excited to offer the best of our most popular items, just in time for the holidays.


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