Smithsonian Museums Celebrate the Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Special Exhibitions and Programs Are Offered
September 22, 2016
News Release
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exterior of African American museum

To celebrate the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, several Smithsonian museums are offering special exhibitions and programs.

National Museum of American History 

Celebration: Snapshots of African American Communities

Lower level, west wing

Through Dec. 7

A display of 22 photographs that reflect the diversity of the African American experience is on view through Dec. 7. The photos come from two collections in the museum’s Archives Center that depict special occasions and everyday life in African American communities: the Scurlock Studio Collection and the Fournet Drug Store.                                                                                                                   
Black Main Street: Funding Civil Rights in Jim Crow America

American Enterprise, New Perspectives Case

Through March 8, 2017

First floor, west wing

The rotating “New Perspectives” display, located within the “Ameican Enterprise” exhibition, examines the ways in which African American businesses, both large and small, contributed to the civil rights movement. This temporary showcase focuses on Harold Cotton who owned and operated Bob’s Hat Shop in Greensboro, N.C., from 1953 to 2005 and Marjorie Stewart Joyner who supervised the training of thousands of African American beauticians as vice president of the Madam C.J. Walker Co.

For a list of more artifacts, programs and future exhibits, visit

National Portrait Gallery

In the Groove: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard

Through Feb. 20, 2017

Enthralled by the music and those who made it, Herman Leonard (1923–2010) began haunting New York’s jazz clubs after opening his first studio in Greenwich Village in 1948. Armed with his Speed Graphic camera, Leonard made images that captured the very essence of a live jazz performance. This exhibition, from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, features Leonard’s iconic images of jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and Sarah Vaughan.

National Zoological Park

Our National Zoo: The Zoo in the Eyes, and Minds, of Washington-area African Americans

Through August 2017

The latest exhibition in the Jessie Cohen Photography Gallery in the Visitor Center features photos and stories from African Americans’ experiences at the Zoo. Across decades, Washington-area African Americans have thought of the Zoo as part of their community and created rich memories from their time spent there. Featured images range from the early 1900s to the present and were collected from the Zoo’s archives and contributions from members of the local community.

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten

Second floor south

Through March 19, 2017

At the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) picked up a camera and discovered the power the photographic portrait has over the photographer himself. Through the decades, his fascination with the medium remained strong and he asked writers, musicians, athletes, politicians and others to sit for him—many of them central figures in the Harlem Renaissance whose accomplishments fueled not only the New Negro movement but also transformed the broader American culture throughout the 20th century. This installation features 39 of Van Vechten’s images, all works from the museum’s permanent collection. This is their first presentation as a whole since they were acquired.

Artworks by African Americans From the Collection

First- through third-floor galleries

Through Feb. 28, 2017        

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to an extraordinary collection of artworks by African Americans with more than 2,000 objects by more than 200 artists. In celebration of the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will display 184 of its most important artworks by African Americans, adding 48 objects to the 136 currently on view in the galleries throughout the museum’s building and Luce Foundation Center.

Smithsonian Archives

African Americans at the Smithsonian: Challenges and Achievements

From the founding of the Smithsonian in 1846, African Americans have made substantive, but often unacknowledged, contributions to the Smithsonian. This online publication ( explores the contributions African American employees have made to the Smithsonian and the challenges they have faced.

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service

A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture 

This commemorative poster exhibition celebrates the opening of the Smithsonian’s newest museum. Based on the inaugural exhibitions of the museum, the posters highlight key artifacts that tell the rich and diverse story of the African American experience. To view a list of organizations hosting “A Place for All People” or to download the digital, print-ready files for the poster exhibition, visit

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