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Our American Story

HBCUs: A Legacy of Shaping African American Athletes

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have always been incubators for talent. In the post–Civil War Reconstruction years (1863–1877), dozens of HBCUs were founded to meet the educational needs of free and newly freed African Americans. Whereas most institutions barred or limited African American enrollment, HBCUs arose to provide higher education and vocational training.
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Collection Story

Breaking Barriers in the Sky: The First African American Flight Attendants

Black flight attendants of the mid-20th century made invaluable contributions to the pursuit of civil rights through actively challenging and subverting the narrow standards of what it meant to represent their profession during this era. Courtesy of retired Delta Air Lines stewardess Casey Grant, a collection of materials donated to the Museum including uniforms, pins, awards and certificates, photographs, and documents shed light on the African American flight attendants who persevered in the face of race and gender-based discrimination, paving the way for Black aviation professionals decades thereafter.
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You Should Know

You Should Know: Black Fashion Icons

African Americans have participated in the fashion industry in various roles, including as designers, dressmakers, seamstresses and influencers.

They have found ways to build spaces for their creative expressions, even when they have faced intensively challenging circumstances such as prejudices and discrimination based on race, gender and classism.
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Collection Story

Babies, Beauty, and Bravery: Black Excellence on the Covers of The Crisis

The editors of The Crisis used images of darling children, beautiful women, and strapping soldiers on their issue covers as symbols of Black excellence in order to discredit the idea that Black people were naturally inferior as a race. These covers reflect the many ways that African Americans maintained racial pride in the face of oppression.
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Collection Story

Strands of Inspiration: Exploring Black Identities through Hair

Many artists and designers in the NMAAHC collection explore the role that hair plays within their own Black identities. These artists highlight Black hair’s ability to form meaning due to its malleable nature that gives way to creative symbolism. The cultural significance of Black hair manifests through the themes demonstrated in art works that consider race through the lenses of gender, space, and time.
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Our American Story

Our American Story - Juneteenth

This year marks the second anniversary since President Joe Biden named Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021. As more Americans celebrate Juneteenth with family and community, it is vital to share the important historical legacy behind Juneteenth and recognize the long struggle to make it an officially recognized holiday. It is an opportunity to honor our country’s second Independence Day and reflect on our shared history and future.
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Collection Story

Gail Anderson: A Leader in Black Graphic Design

Graphic design enhances how we communicate with one another, provides space for individuality and expression, and simply gives our brains a break from looking at plain text all day. Gail Anderson is a New York based designer, writer, educator, co-author, partner at Anderson Newton Design, and one of the most influential Black designers in the game.
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Collection Story

Victory at Home and Abroad: African American Army Nurses in World War II

Two women who served in the Army Nurse Corps—Lt. Louise Lomax and Maj. Della Raney—are represented in the museum’s collection via scrapbooks they compiled during the war.
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Cultural Expressions

Black Joy: Resistance, Resilience and Reclamation

At the heart of the Black Joy movement is what many scholars, journalists, authors, and others are describing as resistance, resilience, and reclamation of Black Humanity.
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Our American Story

From Slavery to Freedom

From inventing dry-cleaning to sugar refining to the first steamboat propeller, African Americans have been active contributors to the economic, political, and social legacies of the United States. Much of U.S. history, however, is contextualized by the system of slavery that was imposed on African Americans for 250 years—and how those born under that system and in its aftermath have crafted a culture deeply rooted in resilience and looking toward the future. The transition from slavery to freedom included many roadblocks as the country confronted the question of how resources could reach newly freed African Americans.
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