Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. looks at the ways in which visual art has long provided its own protest, commentary, escape and perspective for African Americans.

Black Love Matters: Untitled

Black Love Matters: Untitled
Leading a march during Ferguson October in 2014, Lezley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, is in the center holding hands with her husband, Louis Head.

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Zun Lee, © Zun Lee

Hi Experience

Smithsonian Hi is a digital museum guide experience that allows visitors to engage with museum objects using their personal mobile devices. The Hi experience combines innovative image recognition software with an easy-to-use web-browser interface that requires no plugins or downloads. Visitors can use Hi to learn more about objects on view in the Museum's galleries and stories that connect them through video, audio, image and text features; including curator and artist interviews, related objects from the collection and links to online educational resources. Visitors can also use Hi to share favorite objects on social media, bringing the conversation beyond the physical museum. 

Go to from your mobile device while visiting the Visual Arts Gallery to begin your experience!

Exhibition Storylines

Reckoning is a testament to how artists and photographers have used their voice to pay tribute to those we have lost, lifting up names such as Eric Garner, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at demonstrations and in communities online. The show journeys from defiance to resilience to grief and mourning, hope and change.

The exhibition seeks to forge connections between the Black Lives Matter protests, racial violence, grief and mourning, hope and change. Tuliza Fleming NMAAHC’s interim chief curator of visual arts.

A Closer Look

Megan Thee Stallion - Savage Remix [SNL Live Performance]

In October 2020, when Megan Thee Stallion performed her “Savage Remix” on Saturday Night Live, she interspersed her performance with excerpts for Malcolm X’s speech and had the words “Protect Black Women” as her stage backdrop. Her decision to include this content was partially motivated by the events of days prior when Kentucky’s attorney general announced that the use deadly force by the officers who entered Breonna Taylor’s apartment was “justified to protect themselves.” 

Mahalia Jackson Move On Up A Little Higher

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson reached national fame with the 1947 release of “of "Move On Up a Little Higher.” The composer of the song, Rev. William Herbert Brewster, was deeply inspired by the push for black upward mobility in American society and civil rights.

Bisa Butler Signature Style Video

A look at the unique practice of artist Bisa Butler as she creates her portrait quilts. Her process draws upon her background as an African American of Ghanaian descent, evident in her choice of motifs, embellishments and patterning in the African textiles she employs. The works transform family memories and forgotten figures in African American history into narrative social statements.

Related Exhibitions

Reckoning draws from a number of existing exhibitions already on display at the National Museum of Afrcian American History & Culture.

View of the Cultural Expressions exhibition with a large 360 degree video screen around the center of the room.

Cultural Expressions

Culture shapes lives. It’s in the food people eat, the languages they speak, the art they create, and many other ways they express themselves. These traditions reflect the history and creative spirit of African American and other cultures of the African diaspora.
Read More about Cultural Expressions
The entrance to the Making a Way exhibition.

Making a Way Out of No Way

Through education, religious institutions, businesses, the press, and voluntary associations, African Americans created ways to serve and strengthen their communities. They also developed a tradition of activism that paved the way for broader social change.
Read More about Making a Way Out of No Way
The entrance to the A Changing America exhibition featuring "picket signs" describing the events of 1968.

A Changing America

While the modern Civil Rights Movement achieved many victories, it did not end the struggle for freedom. As African Americans have continued to pursue goals of equity and justice, the definition of African American identity has also continued to evolve.
Read More about A Changing America
The entrance to the Sports exhibition featuring statues of John Carlos and Tommie Smith with their fists raised at the 1968 Olympics.


Sports matter far beyond the playing fields. Though historically denied opportunities to compete at the highest levels, African American athletes have recorded impressive achievements and also utilized sports to fight for greater rights and freedoms.
Read More about Sports
Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men, as women, black or white, or Hispanic. LeBron James
"Equality" basketball shoes game-worn by LeBron James, 2017

"Equality" basketball shoes game-worn by LeBron James, 2017

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of LeBron James

Exhibition Objects

Euretta F. Adair, 2018

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Cheryl and Charles Ward, © Lava Thomas
View the Object about Euretta F. Adair, 2018

Walking, 1958

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Sydney Smith Gordon, © Charles Alston Estate
View the Object about Walking, 1958

Wives of Sango, 1971

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Courtesy of Jameela K. Donaldson, © Jeff Donaldson
View the Object about Wives of Sango, 1971
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