National Museum of African American History and Culture Discussion Revisits African Burial Grounds 30 Years Later in May Virtual Programming

April 29, 2021
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The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s May programming features a special conversation on the landmark African Burial Ground project that revealed a greater history behind slavery in the North. The discussion will explore what can be learned from Black cemeteries and how the understanding of slavery in the North has changed since the discovery of the 6-acre burial ground containing the remains of enslaved and free Africans who lived and worked in colonial New York. Michael Blakey, the director of the African Burial Ground project, will lead the conversation and be joined by researchers and preservationists Peggy King Jorde and Joseph Jones, who worked on the project alongside Blakey on the project.

The museum continues its robust virtual programming this month with a poetry workshop exploring the poetic form of “golden shovel” poetry and compose a poem based upon Marsha P. Johnson, noted gay rights activist, self-identified drag queen, and performer and a film screening dedicated to the inner life and identity of Black life. 

Joyful ABC NMAAHC Kids Activity Book Series—Fifth Release (O, P, Q, R)
Monday, May 3
The Joyful Kids ABC Activity Book Series invites caregivers and educators to support children’s positive identity development while also growing their language and literacy skills with activities, museum objects and new words. Each Joyful activity booklet provides early childhood caregivers and educators with insight into children’s developmental stages, age-appropriate play and art activities, and opportunities to look closely at museum objects.

Poetry Workshop: Golden Shovel + Marsha P. Johnson
Wednesday, May 5; 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m.

Golden shovel poetry is a poetic form that takes a word from each line of an existing poem and uses it as the last word of each line in a new poem. In this poetry workshop, participants will look at examples of golden shovel poems and spend time composing an individual work based on Marsha P. Johnson. The workshop will be led by international slam poetry champion, Anthony McPherson. McPherson's work incorporates various art forms, as well as a myriad of character impressions, to address race, art, and his own biracial identity. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

Zora Lathan And Iman Uqdah Hameen: On Black Interiority
Thursday, May 6; 5:30 p.m.

Drawing on the extensive holdings of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, this program will pair the experimental works of Zora Lathan, who uses her family as her muse, and the short film Unspoken Conversation (1987) by Iman Uqdah Hameen, which explores a Black woman’s journey as a wife and mother. The filmmakers will join museum curator of film and photography Rhea Combs and media conservator Ina Archer for a post-screening conversation. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

NMAAHC Kids: Joyful Fridays
Every Friday; 11 a.m.–11:45 a.m. 

The Joyful Fridays series welcomes children every Friday in May to create art that celebrates Black joy, history and culture. This special program is inspired by the museum’s Joyful ABC activity book series, which features activities, museum objects and new words based on characteristics featured in the book, A is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book. To prepare for the activity, registered participants will receive a list of supplies needed, recommended books and links to online resources in the museum’s early childhood Learning Lab collections the Monday before each program. Participants can prepare for this program series by building an at-home creativity kit. This program is for children ages 4 through 8. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

The African Burial Grounds 30 Years Later: Impacts On Black Cemeteries
Saturday, May 8; 12:00 p.m.–1:30 p.m.

In 1991, an archaeological survey at a construction site for a General Services Administration building on Broadway in New York City revealed intact human remains 30 feet below street level. Further research was charged to Howard University, which formed the African Burial Ground Project, directed by Michael Blakey. This project changed what is known about slavery in the North, how descendant communities are engaged, and led to new understandings about what can be learned from Black cemeteries. The Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center welcomes Blakey to discuss the impacts and legacy of the African Burial Ground project and National Memorial 30 years later. He will be joined by Peggy King Jorde and Joseph Jones, both of whom worked on the African Burial Grounds project and have continued to advocate for Black cemeteries and descendant communities. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

Meditation Mondays
Monday, May 10 and 24; 12:30 p.m.–1:15 p.m.

In this virtual program, participants will contemplate the journey of African Americans toward liberation through meditation. During the 45-minute guided sessions, attendees will have an opportunity to reflect on their liberation and discuss the meaning of freedom. Meditation and yoga instructor Ericka Phillips will lead the sessions. No experience, equipment or special clothing is necessary. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

Artful Observations
Wednesday, May 12 and 26; 4 p.m.–5 p.m.

The Artful Observations program encourages critical thinking, careful observation and perspective through guided close-looking exercises. Each session will focus on one work of art from the museum’s visual arts or photography collection. Guided by a NMAAHC educator, participants will spend an hour examining the work in detail. Participants will have the opportunity to share their inferences and interpretations based on visual observations. No formal art or art history training is required to participate. Admission is free; however, registration is required at

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit , follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000. 

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