National Museum of African American History and Culture Commemorates Brown v. Board of Education 70th Anniversary

Commemoration Is a Highlight of the Museum’s May Programs
April 29, 2024
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Black and white image of three people sitting with protest signs.

“No More Segregated Education,” print of 1964 photograph by Frank Espada. Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture purchased with funds provided by the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Copyright Estate of Frank Espada.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by hosting special panel sessions dedicated to this historic moment in collaboration with the NAACP. These sessions will be available online beginning May 24.

Also among the highlights of the month’s programming is Michele Norris, Peabody Award-winning journalist, discussing her book May 29, Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity, which presents a transformative dialogue on race and identity in America, unearthed through her decade-long work at the Race Card Project.

In May, the NMAAHC education team will launch two new Learning Labs geared for digital visitors in grades four and over. Students can explore sites of Black leisure throughout the United States in the lab “Essential Historian Skills: Sites of Black Leisure.” Also, in honor of National Maritime Day, May 22, is the “Considering Maritime” Learning Lab, which shows how the maritime world played a role in African American history. 

More information is available on the museum’s website and social media pages throughout the month @NMAAHC.

May Programming Schedule

Explore More! in STEM: Having Fun with Frequencies 
Wednesday, May 1; 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
Second-floor classroom

Explore More! in STEM is a classroom program for ages eight and above that explores STEM concepts in relation to African American history, culture, and the museum. In this lesson, visitors will learn about sound, frequency, famous African American electric guitarists, and how electric guitars work.

Explore More! in STEM: Flying High with the Triple Nickles 
Tuesday, May 7, and Wednesday, May 8; 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
Second-floor classroom

Explore More! in STEM is a pop-up program for ages and above that focuses on a particular STEM concept and relates it to the museum or African American History and Culture. In this lesson, visitors will learn about the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (aka the Triple Nickles), make their own parachutes and test them.

Through the African American Lens: The Riot Report
Friday, May 10; 7 p.m.–9 p.m.
Concourse, Oprah Winfrey Theater (in person and online) 

The museum presents a film preview and discussion of PBS’ American Experience: The Riot Report, which explores a pivotal moment in the United States’ history. When Black neighborhoods across America erupted in violence in the summer of 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission to answer three questions: What happened? Why did it happen? And what could be done to prevent it from happening again? The commission’s final report would offer a shockingly unvarnished assessment of American race relations that would doom its findings to political oblivion. This event is free; however, registration is required.

Watch Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future: 70th Anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education 
Available online Friday, May 24 

This commemorative event explores the legacy of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to end the segregation of America’s schools and educational institutions. Held in collaboration with the NAACP, there will be multiple panel discussions throughout the day. The program features Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver L. Brown in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas; John Stokes of Prince Edward County, Virginia, where schools remained closed for five years rather than comply with the 1954 ruling; and the surviving members of the Little Rock Nine.

Historically Speaking: Michele Norris: Our Hidden Conversations
Wednesday, May 29; 7 p.m.–8 p.m.
Oprah Winfrey Theater, Concourse (in person and online)

Participants can join the museum for a book talk highlighting Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity by Peabody Award-winning journalist Michele Norris. Our Hidden Conversations is a unique compilation of stories, richly reported essays, and photographs providing a window into America during a tumultuous era. This powerful book offers an honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race and identity, permitting the reader to eavesdrop on deep-seated thoughts, private discussions and long-submerged memories. Signed books will be available courtesy of Smithsonian Enterprises. This program will be live-streamed, but reservations are required.

New On View in the Museum 

Sharecropper’s Masterpiece

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Avis, Eugene, Aaron and Lowell Robinson, in memory of Edward and Annie R. Collins, copyright Collins Robinson.

Avis Collins Robinson pieced this modified strip quilt with nine blocks in the style of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, quilts. It was quilted by Mensie Lee Pettway and Andrea Pettway Williams. The quilt top is comprised of nine blocks in rows and columns of three. On View in Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. exhibition.

Created by Hank Willis Thomas

A red white and blue striped quilt

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Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Museum purchase generously supported by American Express. © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Spiral combines fabric from the United States flag with cloth from decommissioned prison uniforms, visually conflating “the stars and stripes” with the bars of imprisonment. This symbolic connection undercuts the false promise of liberty for all Americans, beginning with the continuing legacy of enslavement under the constitution to the contemporary prison industrial complex and its disproportionate impact on African American men. The cotton in the fabric of the flags and the prison uniforms also pays homage to the backbreaking work of cotton harvesting produced by many people of African descent in the southern United States.  On View in Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience. exhibition.

Reclaiming My Time
Opens Friday, May 31

“Reclaiming My Time,” the first exhibition in the space devoted to contemporary Black designers, will open Friday, May 31, in the Rhimes Family Foundation Visual Arts Gallery. This exhibition will feature chairs and other work by designers who engage with ideas related to rest, repose and histories of labor and leisure. The space includes 15 objects from the museum’s collection spanning seating, lighting, photography and graphic design. More details about this exhibition are available online.

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 10 million in-person visitors and millions more through its digital presence. 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. The museum has also launched and is continually expanding its reach with the Searchable Museum portal and other efforts to bring African American history into the world’s hands and homes. 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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