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National Mall, Washington DC: Museum Of American History, Black Patriots Memorial, and National African American Museum

By Edited Jun 25, 2015 1 2

Other Historical National Mall, Washington DC Sites to See

National Museum Of American History in the Smithsonian Institution can be found on 14th Street and Constitution Avenue. A permanent exhibit describing the Supreme Court's 1954 decision to integrate public schools was scheduled to open in 2004. That court decision was generally viewed as the start of the modern civil rights era. You can also find among the Smithsonian's collections the four seats and a portion of a lunch counter from the Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the sit-in movement started out in 1960.

National Museum Of American History

The museum also holds a pair of shoes worn by Mrs. Hosea Williams in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. Just off the mall in southeastern D.C, the Smithsonian runs the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American culture. Recently renovated, it has changing exhibits and programs.

 

Black Patriots Memorial

The best-kept secret of the American Revolution is that five thousand black soldiers—a lot of them slaves—fought against the British. Congress has approved the designation of a memorial to these patriots close to the reflecting pool between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. Sculptor Ed Dwight's design captures a long line of soldiers in bas-relief, the last looking at the Lincoln Memorial. The patriots memorial is still stuck in Washington's bureaucratic maze though.

The well-known black patriot was Crispus Attucks, a roughcasted Boston dockworker, born a slave of perhaps Indian and African heritage. On March 5, 1770, in the middle of rising tensions between British soldiers and colonists, Attucks and a group later described as "saucy boys, Negroes and mulattos, Irish Teagues and outlandish Jack Tars" started taunting British redcoats. During a shout-filled encounter at the King Street Customs House, British Private Hugh Montgomery fired into the crowd and hit Attucks. During a melee, four others were killed, and a memorial was raised in Boston to them. The real start of the Revolution, the "shot heard 'round the world," happened five years later on Bunker Hill.

General George Washington originally refused to use black soldiers, until the British did by promising freedom in exchange for their service. As many as twenty thousand slaves went to the British side, but worked mostly as laborers. Thousands left on British ships after the U.S. victory. After America's black patriots acquired their personal freedom, they soon learned that slavery would go on in southern states.

 

National African American Museum (opening in 2015)

The idea of a black history memorial or museum on the National Mall goes back to 1915, and scores of bills to make one have come and gone. In 1923, in the Jim Crow era, one bill asking for a monument to "Faithful Colored Mammies of the South" passed the Senate, according to attorney and historian Robert Wilkins. After saner study, Congress authorized a black museum commission, which faded out in the Depression. Dr. King's death propelled a dozen bills and in 1991 the Smithsonian recommended its construction. The concept has collapsed, in part because of its depressing content. Yet the mall bears museums dedicated to the Holocaust and the history of the American Indian. "It's as if there's a member of the family that nobody really talks about," Wilkins told the Washington Post. In 2001 President George W. Bush signed bipartisan legislation to make another commission to decide how, not whether, to create a National Museum of African American History and Culture on or near the National Mall.

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Comments

Apr 23, 2012 3:50am
askformore
Thank you for the information about the Black Patriots Memorial - I didn't know anything about that.
May 26, 2012 1:56pm
Deborah-Diane
I truly believe that every American should tour Washington, DC at least once in their lifetime. There are so many wonderful monuments and museums in this fascinating city. Thanks for the great article.
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